April 3, 2007
Be grateful, Cubs fans. Now that real estate magnate Sam Zell has announced his intent to sell your team and keep the rest of ailing media giant Tribune Co. (NYSE: TRB ) , you have hope. Take it from a Yankees fan.
Rewind with me to 1964. After decades of private ownership, an 80% stake in the Bronx Bombers was sold to CBS (NYSE: CBS ) that year for $11.2 million. The remaining 20% would be purchased soon after.
And that, in many ways, would pronounce the end of the Yankees' dynasty at the time. From 1964 to 1972 the Yankees would win just 50.5% of their games and produce just one American League pennant -- in 1964. But they would lose that year's World Series to the promising Cardinals in seven games.
Eight years later, in January of 1973, the occasionally loathsome George Steinbrenner and a team of limited partners bought the Yankees back from CBS. Winning returned with him four years later, in the 1977 World Series.
Color me unsurprised. Baseball, even though it sometimes seems like it, isn't a business -- it's a league. Winning teams aren't driven by a profit motive in the same way that the best companies are. They're instead driven by an insatiable need to win. That's what Steinbrenner had when he bought the Yanks and it's why he's still a free-spender today.
So, again, be grateful, Cubs fans. Zell isn't committed to spending the capital required to help you win. At least you know, and you can ask him -- or plead with him -- to sell to someone who will.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers watched most of the Yankees' opening day victory over Tampa Bay. He hopes fans don't forget that A-Rod helped to manufacture the winning run before he crushed a late two-run bomb. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy likes little ball more than the long ball.