Former Suns owner Colangelo confirms interest in buying Cubs

Wednesday, November 22nd 2006, 10:37 pm

By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Add Phoenix sports executive Jerry Colangelo to the growing list of potential bidders for the Chicago Cubs if Tribune Co. puts his hometown franchise up for sale.

Colangelo, chairman of the NBA's Phoenix Suns and former owner of both the basketball Suns and baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, said Wednesday he has held ``preliminary discussion'' with unspecified other people who share his interest in buying the Cubs.

He declined to say whether he had spoken to Tribune Co. or the Cubs about his interest, but said ``you can speculate that.''

``If in fact the Cubs become available, and that's a big 'if,' I've stated that I would have great interest,'' he told The Associated Press. ``I'm just trying to keep my options open at this point, that's all.''

Colangelo said he had spoken with two different groups of prospective bidders. However, he added, ``I have my own interest, not necessarily tied to any particular group.''

The 67-year-old Colangelo grew up a Cubs fan in suburban Chicago Heights, Ill. A four-time NBA executive of the year and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he brought major-league baseball to Arizona in 1998 as managing general partner of the Diamondbacks, who won the World Series in 2001.

He told WSCR-AM on Tuesday that owning his hometown team would be ``quite an exciting possibility'' and would represent ``coming full circle.''

Tribune, under pressure from large shareholders disappointed with its sagging stock, has said it hopes to decide by year's end on a strategic overhaul that could include selling the entire company or certain assets. Those assets also include 11 newspapers, led by the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, and 25 television stations.

The media conglomerate reportedly has told buyers it would focus first on a possible sale of the entire company before the sale of individual pieces.

``I think everyone is awaiting what they decide to do,'' Colangelo said. ``What I've been advised is that may come down early in December.''

Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman declined comment.

Don Levin, a Chicago businessman who wants to buy the Cubs, said he believes after talking with the company last week that the Cubs aren't for sale ``right now.''

``The Tribune corporation would like to sell itself, and whoever buys it might sell some of the pieces,'' said Levin, owner of the Chicago Wolves minor-league hockey team. ``I remain firmly interested.''

Another prospective ownership group includes 15 investors, among them Tom Begel, chairman of Chicago-based TMB Industries.

Speculation that Tribune plans to sell the Cubs has intensified with the club's offseason spending spree, including agreeing with outfielder Alfonso Soriano this week on an eight-year contract for $136 million _ fifth-richest contract in the history of Major League Baseball.

Also, several reports have indicated that the company told bidders for the entire company that their initial offers were way too low.

Analysts have estimated that the Cubs could fetch $600 million or more. Tribune bought the team in 1981 for $20.5 million.

Shares in Tribune fell 22 cents to close at $32.25 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock traded above $50 as recently as 2004.

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