Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell is pushing to have a deal in place by yearend to sell all but a small stake in the Chicago Cubs, despite recent indications that he might retain 50% of the ballclub.
Mr. Zell expects to select a finalist from the five remaining bidding groups and submit the deal for Major League Baseball's approval sometime in December, a person familiar with the sale says.
He is fast-tracking the sale -- despite a credit crunch that seemed to put his year-end deadline in doubt -- as pressure mounts to raise as much as $1 billion to chip away at the mountain of debt from his 2007 buyout of Tribune. With cash flow plummeting from weak advertising sales at Tribune's newspapers, selling half the team probably wouldn't raise the cash he needs. He has other assets to unload, but it would be difficult to do so quickly in a tough credit market.