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Mark Cuban charged with insider trading: third strike on Cubs' bid?

November 17, 2008 | 11:54 am

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban yells at referees during the second half of the game against the Clippers last week. By the standards of baseball bidding, Mark Cuban has been downright outspoken about his desire to own the Chicago Cubs. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and the boys generally advise bidders to keep their mouths shut, and for good reason: Why say something that might give an owner a reason to vote against you?

Selig and the MLB owners didn't have much choice in approving the Dodgers' sale to Frank McCourt, who properly said nothing during the approval process. Fox wanted out, the team had been on the market for years and no local bidder ever materialized, notwithstanding Eli Broad's 11th-hour publicity stunt. But the Cubs sale is more like the Red Sox sale, attracting bidders from far and wide.

Selig and the MLB owners have the right to approve any bidder, so the highest bid might not win. In the Red Sox sale, the Massachusetts attorney general reached a settlement that provided the trust that owned the team with an additional $30 million amid allegations that Selig and the MLB owners steered the Sox to a group led by John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner despite higher bids from at least two other prospective owners. In the case of the Cubs, Chicago businessman John Canning is widely believed to be Selig's preferred bidder, so that's strike one against Cuban. 

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Cuban had no chance to buy the Cubs, but from a distance one might have dismissed the report as "lobby talk" from the general managers' meetings. No MLB owners were in attendance, after all, and neither was Selig. But rumors of the owners' antipathy toward Cuban were nothing new, so we'll call this strike two.

Strike three might have come this morning, when the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Cuban with insider trading. The SEC is asking for Cuban to be fined. Cuban has not yet responded to the charges, but if they stick -- or even if a settlement is reached -- that might kill his bid. It's hard to imagine owners previously found guilty of collusion voting to approve a bid by someone associated with insider trading.

-- Bill Shaikin

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

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