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CHICAGO � As bidders line up to make an offer for the Chicago Cubs, baseball’s lovable losers who have been transformed into a playoff contender, attorneys are bringing together investors, readying financing packages and helping craft clients’ pitches. There are at least six attorneys, or teams of lawyers, working to position their clients for a winning bid. The Cubs’ parent, the Tribune Co., announced in April that it would sell the team and on the same day said it would sell itself to real estate magnate Sam Zell. The team has been owned by the Tribune Co. for 26 years, since the company bought the Cubs in 1981 from William Wrigley, the heir to the chewing gum company, for $20.5 million. The Tribune Co. is selling the team now along with other assets, including Major League Baseball’s second-oldest ballpark, Wrigley Field, on Chicago’s north side, at a time when the newspaper industry has been struggling to boost profits. Almost all of the bidders have experience in owning or seeking to buy other professional sports teams. Bidders are first seeking to get league approval to view the team’s financial information, likely to be released in October, and will enter the formal bidding process thereafter, said Thomas Mandler, a Chicago attorney at Hinshaw & Culbertson who is leading one group of interested investors. “This is not a bunch of guys sitting around the kitchen table having a beer saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to own the Cubs,’ ” Mandler said of his group, which includes Chicago businessman Jim Anixter, founder of Northbrook, Ill.-based A-Z Industries. Billy Williams, the Hall of Fame rightfielder who played for the Cubs in the 1960s, is also in the group, Mandler said. A possible front-runner Some consider the front-runner in the contest to be a group led by John Canning Jr., the chief executive officer of the Chicago-based private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, because of his ties to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who established the Milwaukee Brewers team in 1970. Canning currently owns, and would be forced to sell, an 11% stake in the Brewers if he buys the Cubs. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker partner Bill Kirsch, who is representing Canning, declined to comment on the transaction. Bidders ultimately need to win support from three-quarters of the league’s 30 owners to buy the team, said Tom J. Ostertag, Major League Baseball’s general counsel. Ostertag’s office in New York oversees the information provided to qualified bidders and the approval process for the sale of any team. While some bidders suggested that the sale has been put on hold while the company tries to complete its sale to Zell, Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman insisted that the two transactions are proceeding separately and the goal is still to sell the team by year’s end. Mandler said he and Anixter also bid for the Cubs when the team on the sales block back in 1981. Other members of their double-digit investment team prefer to remain anonymous for now, he said. The group is well down the road in terms of studies, plans and new concepts for ownership of the team, Mandler said. The Anixter group was linked earlier this year to Don Levin, owner of a Chicago minor league hockey team called the Wolves, but Levin is pursuing the bid alone now, said one of his attorneys, Katten Muchin Rosenman’s Adam Klein. Connections, connections Klein, who leads the sports practice at his firm, is working on the Cubs quest for Levin with Gerald Penner, of counsel to the firm’s Chicago office and who is also secretary for the Major League Baseball cross-town rival Chicago White Sox. Katten also serves as outside counsel for the White Sox. Despite speculation about the role that connections may play in the approval process, Penner said he believes that the team will simply go to the “highest bidder.” Levin isn’t the only sports team owner in the running. Robert Heart, the lawyer for the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, Mark Cuban, declined to say whether his boss is pursuing a bid. Heart, who is general counsel for Mark Cuban Cos., landed Cuban as his first client 20 years ago in Dallas. Cuban earlier this year said that he had submitted an application to the league for reviewing the Cubs’ finances. Foley & Lardner attorney Phillip Goldberg declined to say what his billionaire client, TD Ameritrade Inc. founder Joe Ricketts, may do in pursuit of the Cubs. Shefsky & Froelich attorney Cezar Froelich is working with an investor group that he won’t identify other than to say it’s not one of the names that has been bandied about in town. For now, Froelich said his client is preparing itself in the way that most of the investors are. The group is putting together a financially solid team that hopes it will win the day by showing that it can be a boon to Major League Baseball, he said.

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