City set to buy Bears and sell shares to fans, city councilor says

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been urged to do whatever it takes to keep the Bears in Chicago. But does that include the ability for the city to buy the team and sell shares to fans, following the Green Bay Packers model?

The deputy head of the mayor’s city council believes it should – and he plans to present a resolution on Wednesday to get the ball rolling.

Ald. Georges Cardenas (12e) wasn’t intimidated by the fact that Forbes magazine valued the Bears at $ 4.06 billion, a valuation 16% higher than last year.

And the team’s value could rise if they move to a new stadium in Arlington Heights after signing an agreement to buy the 326-acre site of the now-closed Arlington International Racecourse for $ 197.2 million. .

Cardenas was also not fazed by the fact that the Bears have been a family business for generations and that the family, led by matriarch Virginia McCaskey, 98, has shown no interest in selling the team.

A candidate for the Cook County Board of Review, Cardenas simply wants City Hall to be “creative” in keeping the beloved Bears in Chicago.

“The city has just acquired a casino. We need these assets to stay in the city. And we have to find a way to attract bears. If they don’t want to be here, let’s buy them back. I mean, they can’t manage this team. They didn’t manage this team [well] for decades, ”Cardenas said of the 3-6 Bears.

“We can certainly find and have a group of investors, including the city, to be able to say, ‘We’ll get rid of it for you.’ Let’s do the hard work that needs to be done.

The Cardenas resolution calls on the city council committee on special events, cultural affairs and recreation to “convene a hearing” to authorize a “feasibility study on whether it is practical and desirable for the city of continue buying Chicago bears ”.

The resolution notes that there may be “financial or legal barriers to the city acquiring an interest in an NFL franchise – including NFL regulations regarding ownership and potential issues regarding the city having an interest. in a for-profit business or in a gambling position. “

But, he said, “City council believes the city should explore any opportunity to keep the Bears in Chicago, even if that means buying the team.”

Cardenas told the Chicago Sun-Times that he discussed the possibility of municipal ownership with Lightfoot, including the possibility of using “crowd-sourcing”. The town hall declined to comment.

Chicago-based sports marketing expert Marc Ganis called Cardenas’ proposal a “ridiculous idea” that “will never happen” and looks more like a “publicity stunt” than a serious proposal to keep the Bears in Chicago.

“The Packers… the property was protected… generations ago. Any concept like this is totally and completely against all National Football League ownership rules, ”said Ganis, who has advised many NFL teams on stadium funding.

“The league will never change its rules in this way. “

Although the McCaskey’s ultimately decided to sell the family business, Ganis said there are “rights within the business that are vested in the business” that the buyer should be on. Chicago businessman Andrew McKenna Sr. and insurance mogul Patrick Ryan also own a 19.6% stake in the Bears, he said.

“If city officials were to put their efforts into stopping a move to Arlington Heights, they would have to think about how to build a new stadium for them within the city limits,” Ganis said.

Veteran sports reporter Lester Munson called the purchase of the Bears “implausible” – to say the least.

“I’m sure you could get a lot of Bear fans to invest money like Packer fans do. But it’s a one of a kind thing under some bizarre Wisconsin law, and I’m not sure it’s even legally possible here. You might need legislation in Springfield, ”Munson said.

Calling the idea a “utopia,” said Munson, “the price is too high and I’m not sure the city belongs” to owning an NFL franchise.

Civic Federation president Laurence Msall is among those who have urged Lightfoot to do everything to keep the Bears in Chicago – and not necessarily Soldier Field.

But he too argued that municipal ownership is a bad idea.

“I don’t know where the city of Chicago would find… the $ 4 billion that is expected market value,” Msall said.

“A better use of the city’s time and resources would be to make additional proposals beyond Soldier Field for the Bears Stadium if they [cannot be persuaded] to stay at Soldier Field.

James C. Tibbs