The Ricketts family fortune comes from its patriarch J. Joe Ricketts who founded TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ: AMTD), and is expected to be sufficient to remake the perennial also-rans into legitimate contenders.
While Sam Zell's sale of the team was made more urgent by the declining fortunes of Tribune and its huge debt load that led to bankruptcy, the Cubs don't appear to be selling at a firesale price. Back in April Forbes estimated the team's value at $642 million, including the stadium. But Forbes added that "The new man in charge at Tribune is Samuel Zell, who will likely sell the Cubs to reduce debt, for between $650 million and $1.3 billion, depending on whether or not 94-year-old Wrigley Field and Tribune's 25% stake in local sports cable channel Comcast SportsNet Chicago are included."
The offer was made more attractive by the fact that it was 50% cash, substantially more than other competing bids. With the debt markets the way they are right now, offers contingent on financing are not especially compelling.
The Cubs haven't won a World Series in 101 years, but they may have just taken a big step toward that goal.