Wow, there is a lot to unpack in Tom Ley’s exhaustive exposé of the true story behind the Ricketts family’s purchase of the Cubs. Thanks to a cache of family patriarch Joe Ricketts’ emails, the same source of information that previously revealed his bigoted views and the family’s corporate structure, Deadspin was was able to provide “an unprecedented insider’s view of an MLB team sale.”
And when I say there’s a lot to unpack, I mean like way more than I could ever dream of fitting into the carry-on I brought to Cabo. And since my choices right now are to watch someone pour me a margarita or pore through and cull all the salient information from Ley’s piece, you can imagine why I’m not too keen on writing anything of great length.
The documents and emails below come from the inbox of Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade and billionaire patriarch of the Ricketts family. Though his son Tom led the family’s efforts throughout the sale process, the emails reveal that Joe, whose wealth bankrolled a significant portion of the purchase, kept close watch on the negotiations and was looped in on major decisions. Scores of conference-call notes, financial analyses, bid presentations, and other documents and updates related to the sale found their way into Joe’s inbox.
What it basically amounts to is that Sam Zell and the Tribune Company wanted to set up the sale of the Cubs as a massive tax dodge, a plan the Ricketts family went along with. None of that is really news to those who had followed the process from the beginning, but the specificity of this newest account makes it unique.
And as you see from the excerpt above, the piece casts a great deal of doubt on previous claims that Joe Ricketts was merely a disinterested bystander in the process. The emails also detail some of the internal bickering between family members, though that seems like little more than par for the course when you’re talking about such a massive purchase with myriad personal, political, and financial ramifications.
“Rich people are weird,” Ley concludes, which is perhaps all you really need to know about the whole process. But I suppose you already knew that. There’s a lot, lot, lot more though, including franchise valuations and exchanges between family memebers about how the media was portraying them and how they’d go about addressing various matters. So take a look if you’ve got 30 or so minutes to spare.