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Bears ownership “strife” may lead to team sale

A report indicates all is not well among the McCaskey family and some members could be looking to sell

NFL: SEP 17 Seahawks at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Yesterday, the Daily Herald’s Jim O’Donnell dropped a bit of a bombshell: That the McCaskey family is battling internal strife and that some members of the family are pushing for the team to be sold now.

The most striking reply came from an individual with exceptional knowledge of the working dynamic within the McCaskey family.

That person said: “There is some internal strife going on among family members to sell ... now.”

The strife makes perfect sense. Even if it is opposite to prevailing thought that the franchise will never be sold as long as Mrs. Virginia McCaskey — age 98 — has an earthly say.

Now, before you decide to take to the streets to celebrate, keep in mind this is a lot of moving pieces, and no easy task.

As the McCaskey family grows and when Virginia inevitably dies, there is a growing number of heirs of that piece of the pie. You’re now talking about shares being split, how many ways? Could George, Brian, Ed and Patrick become the sole heirs of some kind of trust? Those are the current McCaskeys on the board, however, Virginia and her late husband Ed had 11 children and Virginia has 40+ grandchildren.

Now we’re really getting into fracturing ownership.

But among those 11 or so potential heirs, is it really out of the realm that there could be strife? Think of your own family, I have one brother and he’s a Packers fan, so imagine how much we are in lockstep on, let alone if we had an asset worth possibly $3.5 billion or more.

I find it hard to believe that the McCaskeys are bound to throw up a for sale sign, but it is an interesting time for the topic to come up.

The former site of Arlington Race Track keeps coming up as a possible future site of a Chicago Bears-owned and financed stadium project. That’s another huge piece of the money pie, but it’s not a greatly kept secret that the McCaskeys, among NFL ownership, aren’t liquid-cash rich enough to do a deal like that.

But there’s existing board members that will have a say in any sale: Pat Ryan.

Even if you don’t know of Pat Ryan, you likely recognize his name from Northwestern University, where his name adorns both the football field (Ryan Field) and half of the basketball arena (Welsh-Ryan).

Ryan, along with partner Andy McKenna, bought in to the Bears in the ‘80s and, according to O’Donnell, hold a right of first refusal to buy more shares:

Ryan, 83, is the favorite. The billionaire businessman — in partnership with 91-year-old Andy McKenna — owns 19.7% of the Bears. He also holds the right-of-first-refusal as “primary investor” if any of the McCaskey stock comes up for sale.

Ryan, founder and retired CEO of Aon, is worth around $2.6 billion and could easily find some investors to make a buying bid that would likely include his sons Pat Jr. and Rob (not THAT Rob).

Next in line would be Neil Bluhm, the casino magnate with ties to Churchill Downs, which owns the Arlington Park site. Bluhm is reportedly worth $6.8 billion and is already a minority owner of both the Bulls and White Sox.

Bluhm makes the most sense in a bring the Bears to Arlington scenario.

Last mentioned is Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder and richest man in the world. O’Donnell reports that the NFL has more interest in Bezos than vice versa but the Chicago Bears could be an interesting asset to a man who has everything.

But again, who knows how realistic any or all of this is?

Something tells me that the McCaskeys are too proud to sell and walk away, especially when they just had their handpicked duo draft perhaps the most important player of the last 46 years, at least.

Money talks though and there’s a lot of it out there. It’s worth keeping an eye on, but this is merely one small report being put out there.