Thursday, September 6, 2007

What hath Harry Caray wrought?

If you want to catch a game at Wrigley Field during next year's NRA show, start sucking up to indie-group operator Rich Melman, sports concessionaire Larry Levy or McDonald's chairman Andrew McKenna. The three are part of the thick-walleted investment crew that Chicago media have tagged as the lead bidder for the city's beloved Cubs.

The group is led by John Canning, chairman of the private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, itself no stranger to the restaurant industry. Long before the current wave of private-equity-financed restaurant acquisitions, Madison Dearborn was active in the field, with investments in Ruth's Chris, Burger King franchisee Carrols Corp. and the Peter Piper Pizza chain.

Of course, the group isn't the only suitor for the team, which is narrowly holding on to first place in its division. Among the other reported tire-kickers is Mark Cuban, the one-time Dairy Queen employee who is perhaps a tad better known as owner of the Dallas Mavericks. The bad boy of sports moguls did time at a DQ unit after shooting off his mouth about an NBA ref. Cuban publicly remarked that he wouldn't hire the guy to manage a Dairy Queen. The quip cost him $500,000 in fines from the league, and Cuban decided to make nice with the working world by spending 90 minutes behind the counter of a DQ unit in Texas.

But even before he added swirls to soft-serve cones, Cuban was no stranger to the restaurant business. A former partner is Jeffrey Yarbrough, the Dallas restaurateur and one-time president of the Texas Restaurant Association.

And lest you think the restaurant industry is unrepresented on the other side of the deal table, consider that the pending Cubs sale is part of a larger transaction for current owner Tribune co., publisher of Chicago's namesake newspaper. While divesting the team, the media concern is in the process of being sold itself for $8.2 billion to Sam Zell, who made more than a few of the dollars in his considerable real estate fortune by serving as a landlord for Melman.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home