Al Spalding, who also owned Spalding sporting goods, played for the team for two seasons under club founder William Hulbert. After Hulbert's death Spalding owned the club for twenty one years, after which the Cubs were purchased by Albert Lasker and Charles Weeghman. That pair were followed by the Wrigley family, owners of Wrigley's chewing gum. In 1981, after 6 decades under the Wrigley family, the Cubs were purchased by Tribune Company for $20,500,000. Tribune, which also owned the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, WGN Television, WGN Radio and many other media outlets, controlled the club until December 2007, when Sam Zell completed his purchase of the entire Tribune organization and announced his intention to sell the baseball team.
In 2008 Zell began what was basically a competition for a buyer. In late July, a long list was narrowed down to ten, and those ten prospective investors were then narrowed to three, all of whom offered over $1 billion for both the Cubs and Wrigley Field, with the presumptive fan favorites being outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and a group led by former announcer Steve Stone and Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron. However, the list inflated back to five by August as private equity investor and Brewers minority owner John Canning, Jr. and Tom Ricketts, the son of Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts were added to the "contest." The Canning move was highly scrutinized, because when Zell originally trimmed the candidates down, Canning Jr. had been eliminated, but commissioner Bud Selig had apparently picked him as a favorite of the fraternity of MLB owners. During a Chicago Bulls-Dallas Mavericks telecast on October 9, 2008, Cuban, in a courtside interview with Comcast Sports Net, claimed he had made the highest bid, and although he did not know where he stood, noted that the state of the economy would likely affect the time frame of the eventual sale. Nonetheless, on January 8, 2009, the Chicago Tribune reported that a new group of three finalists, Tom Ricketts advised by Salvatore Galatioto of Galatioto Sports Partners, Hersch Klaff advised by Michael Levy of Paragon Capital Partners, and a partnership of private equity investors Marc Utay and Leo Hindery Jr., were expected to submit polished offers "within days," after which the winning bid would be accepted and, pending the winning bidders approval by 2/3 of the current MLB owners, "would be final," with Zell holding on to a minor share of the team. The Ricketts family won that bidding process as the 2009 season came to a close. Ultimately, the sale was unanimously approved by MLB owners and the Ricketts family took control on October 27, 2009.
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