The Ricketts family is on the offensive again.
You remember Joe Ricketts, the right wing billionaire and founder of the successful wealth-skimming operation TD Ameritrade who bought the Chicago Cubs a few years ago? The same Joe Ricketts who contributed tens of millions of dollars to his Ending Spending Action Fund to smear President Obama as a Rev. Wright in Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist clothing? The same Joe Ricketts whose political Super PAC threatened to run ads using an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who could better implicate The President as “a metro-sexual, black Abe Lincoln?”
Well, it turns out that in the case of his son, Tom Ricketts, CEO of the Chicago Cubs, as well as the CEO of Incapital LLC, and Director of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation– the rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the morally decrepit tree.
When the Ricketts bought the Chicago Cubs and their related assets for $900 million in 2009, they celebrated by wooing the city with handshakes on the street, sharing rides on the Metra, and promises that they would treat the franchise as they would a member of their own family. Tom Ricketts ran around telling his story of how his love for the Cubs began in 1984(not exactly a life-long die hard, especially since he grew up in Omaha, Nebraska), and how he and his brother Pete “lived over the ‘Sports Corner’” right across the street from Wrigley Field for a short time. He told the story of how he met his wife Cecelia in the left-field bleachers and everyone romanticized this whirlwind affair.
Finally! Someone who “gets” the Cubs. A fan/owner. A sort of Mr. Deeds Makes Good story that had Cub fans giddy with dreams of a World Series championship in their lifetimes. Someone who could ‘Reverse the Curse’ without sacrificing any goats and bring to an end 105 years of franchise futility.
But ever since the Ricketts took over the team, it’s been a top-down strategy, rather than bottom-up, typical in the corporate America mindset. They went out and got themselves a hot-shot Moneyball man in Theo Epstein to run the front office operations of the team, netting him one of the most lucrative payouts for a President of a team in baseball history.
Then they cut team payroll by $43 million– a move which demonstrates that spending money on the product on the field isn’t a top priority. In other words, if the Cubs are going to win a World Series, they’re going to do it on the cheap. This is the most profitable franchise in baseball(not to be confused with the “most valuable”).
So, earlier this month, in an attempt to distract from the diminished quality of personnel on the field and the club’s dwindling fortunes, Tom Ricketts made his proposal to the city to renovate the park and a huge chunk of the surrounding area. Now, I don’t necessarily have an issue with the proposal in general, but Tom Ricketts claimed that they need these aesthetic changes in and around Wrigley Field to win a World Series, stating that: ”If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city. We need this project in order to bring our fans a winner.”
This is coming from the owner who cut team payroll by $43 million.
But that’s not even the most bizarre assertion. Because Tom Ricketts claims that if they get their approval from the city for a $500 million renovation, including a 6000 ft. Jumbotron in left field, this will bring ultimate victory.
And he’s serious. In statements to the press earlier this month, Tom Ricketts actually threatened to move the team to Rosemont, IL if his demands are not met and does not get approval for the new scoreboard and new ad signage, stating, “The fact is that if we don’t have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, we’ll have to take a look at moving — no question.”
This is like leaving your Grandpa at the cemetery and driving off for a better Grampy-Gramps. So much for loyalty.
But it got me to thinking, what could possibly be the reason for this hostility? A Jumbotron? Ad signage?
And then it hit me: