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Common ownership has never been any guarantee that the Tribune would break the big stories about the Cubs and Wrigley Field. On Tuesday the Tribune got scooped on the Tribune Company's decision to blow off the deal former governor James Thompson had come up with for the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to buy Wrigley and make lots of improvements there without charging taxpayers a dime. The magic wand was going to be a brand-new financial instrument called "equity seat rights."
"This plan violates so many rules that the parties have to live under, it doesn't even get to first base." an unnamed source said in Fran Spielman and David Roeder's story, whose headline, "ZELL NO," took over the front page of the Sun-Times. Sam Zell might be wondering why his flagship newspaper wasn't first with the news about the company ball park, but he probably isn't -- Spielman and Roeder relied entirely on unnamed sources, and Zell surely knows perfectly well which of his people did their talking to the Sun-Times and why. (If he doesn't, Cubs chairman Crane Kenney might be able to edify him.)
At any rate, the Tribune got in the game later in the day on its Web site, posting a piece by financial writer Jim Kirk. Catch-up is never fun, and the way the Tribune backhandedly acknowledged being scooped was to pretend the competition got it wrong. Said the Tribune: "Thompson, throwing cold water on a report in the Sun-Times this morning that a deal with the state was dead, said that ISFA is still negotiating with Tribune Co." Thompson was quoted as saying he'd get back to Zell and talk some more.
Whatever. Thompson put together an offer and Zell turned it down. And now -- the Sun-Times flatly reports and the Tribune strongly suggests -- the Tribune Company intends to try to sell the Cubs and Wrigley Field privately as a package.