Despite Having No More Money, Cubs Owners Among Investors in Sports-Betting Startup

During a recent press conference in Mesa, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts turned his pockets out and claimed that the Cubs can’t pursue more free agents because the team doesn’t have any more money. More specifically, there’s nothing remaining in the baseball operations budget. There are, however, enough discretionary funds to do a little gambling.

According to a Bloomberg report, the Cubs owners are among several investors in Action Network Inc., a subscription-based service offering data and analysis for sports bettors. The company was formed a little over a year ago by the Chernin Group in hopes of leveraging the rapidly growing market of legal sports betting.

While the amount of the investments in Action Network were not divulged, the total of this latest round of funding was a mere $17.5 million. That includes money from Fertitta Capital, the private equity firm operated by former UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, and David Blitzer, co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils.

I’m not going to pretend to understand all the ins and outs of tech startups and private equity or venture capital, so I’m not going to get myself in the weeds talking about that. For all I know, the money attributed to the Cubs is just the contents of the Ricketts family swear jar. Or maybe they cleaned out Papa Joe’s couch during the last family business summit.

In all seriousness, we know there are different buckets when it comes to the Cubs’ finances, whether it’s the 1060 Project or the construction taking place adjacent to Wrigley Field. The latter endeavors fall under the purview of Hickory Street Capital, a Ricketts-owned business that operates independently from the Cubs. Well, sort of, since there are very obvious symbiotic and financial relationships between the entities.

Maybe the investment came from the HSC bucket of funds that never would have been earmarked for baseball operations. Or perhaps the Ricketts sold off some of their TD Ameritrade shares in favor of a sexier investment with a little more risk. I really have no idea and that’s not what’s most important here.

The real issue is that we’re just a few days removed from Cubs ownership saying there’s no money to spend on players, yet here they are spending money on an industry that promotes betting on sports. So the Cubs can’t invest in actual players, but they’re cool with investing in gambling on players. Makes sense.

While there’s nothing illegal or untoward about the arrangement, it just makes Ricketts’ statements about the budget feel even more disingenuous than they already did. And that’s really saying something, since pretty much no one in either the media or the fanbase took his words at face value.

That’s not entirely Ricketts’ fault — he’s not going to bust open the team’s books and we can’t expect him to — but it’s another PR misstep in a winter that’s been full of them. Whether it’s fair or not, pretty much everything the Cubs do at this point is going to be viewed with side-eye, if not openly ridiculed.

Gee, if only there was some way for them to stem the tide of all the negative news.

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Evan Altman

Evan Altman is the EIC and co-founder of Cubs Insider and has proclaimed himself Central Indiana's foremost Cubs authority. He is a husband, father, homebrewer, and award-winning blogger with entirely too much pop culture knowledge. Evan's greatest accomplishments include scoring 400 points in Magic Johnson's Fast Break, naming all 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan in under 3.5 seconds, and winning the Meese Literary Award at Hanover College.

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21 Comments

  1. The article says that the Cubs owners are investors… not the Cubs. This is not Cubs money.
    Mark Cuban owns a basketball team, a theater chain, a TV network, etc and one has nothing to do with the others. What investments they make with their own money has nothing the do with the Cubs. The Cubs business is a separate and self-sustaining business.

    1. Darrell, read it again and pay specific attention to where it’s said that this money is separate from baseball ops and that it could have come from any number of sources completely unrelated to the team. The issue is the timing of the announcement in light of other things that have been said.

      1. Nice try. First you said “While the amount of the Cubs’ investment in Action Network was not divulged” which clearly implies some Cubs investment and the headline clearly says Cubs investment.
        You clearly wrote it in a way to imply Cubs investment, then later try to get yourself of the hook by your later statements. Without knowledge of a Cubs investment and honest writer would not imply a Cubs connection.

        1. Darrell, I think maybe you need to find another way to fill up your time than trolling Cubs blogs.There are more important issues in the world.

      1. I am a realist. After watching the game for 60 years the rose colored glasses have faded. The new salaries and tv charges only hurt the fans. Paying these salaries will keep the average fan away with their family. I don’t drink but beer for $9 is simply nuts. How can a family of four afford to go to the game unless their name is Ricketts or any other owner relation.

  2. I’m not going to say that my past good feelings about the Ricketts family can’t go back to feeling good about them. Now as a Cub fan I feel like I’m being taken for granted like a fool. I realize all their different business ventures have different LLC’s, I am not sure if legally they could just transfer money from them to the Cubs. It just seems like The Ricketts family’s arrogance feels like they can get away with saying and doing anything, and Cub fans will just buy in to it. I wonder how long ago Theo Epstein found out he was not going to have much money to spend and this year’s free agents. Even without Harper or Machado, the fact that they can’t sign a high end quality reliever and a good backup catcher is disgraceful.

  3. Yes, given all of the rest of the bad news/press on the Ricketts – the timing of this is less than ideal to say the least. That’s about where it starts and stops however. They are multi-billionaire owners with varied interests, of which the Cubs are just one.

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