No longer losers, Chicago Cubs see success off baseball field as well

Wed Oct 14, 2015 6:26pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman

(Reuters) - The Chicago Cubs have thrilled fans with a run to Major League Baseball's National League championship, but the team formerly known more for tough losses and bad luck is now set for a long and lucrative stretch both on and off the field.

Their run going forward will be fueled by young, less costly players, a $650 million renovation of Wrigley Field that will turn the storied ballpark into even more of a cash cow, and the expected future establishment of a dedicated television network worth billions of dollars, analysts and bankers said.

"The Cubs are going to be a team to reckon with on the field and as a business enterprise for the next decade or so," said Marc Ganis, president of consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd, which advised Tribune Co in its sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family in 2009.

While the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 and fans over the years have bemoaned black cat and billy goat curses, the mood is more jubilant now following Monday's series-clinching victory over their archrival St. Louis Cardinals.

Many fans believe the worm has finally turned, but seeds for the changes under way were planted when the Ricketts family purchased control of the team and picked up speed after Theo Epstein moved from the Boston Red Sox to become the club's general manager two years later.

Everything starts with the play on the field, where this year the Cubs have this year shed their lovable losers' image and fans are instead dreaming of winning the World Series.

The losing before this year led Epstein to rebuild the team with an emphasis on lower-priced, young players and that in turn has given the team flexibility to spend on expensive free agents such as the signing of pitcher Jon Lester this past offseason.

"They took their lumps for a while, but now it's bearing fruit," said Sal Galatioto, president of sports banker Galatioto Sports Partners, which represented the Ricketts family in their purchase of the Cubs. "Great performance gives you leverage in doing anything."   Continued...

Chicago Cubs fans including Joe Downs (R) celebrate outside of Wrigley Field after game four of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals in Chicago, Illinois, in this October 13, 2015 file photo.   Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports/Files