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Cubs ranked as most profitable team in MLB, according to Forbes Magazine

Pete Ricketts left Tom Ricketts center talk with Kerry Wood before ceremony for RSanWrigley Field Friday July 27 2012 Chicago.

Pete Ricketts, left, and Tom Ricketts, center, talk with Kerry Wood before a ceremony for Ron Santo at Wrigley Field Friday, July 27, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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MESA, Ariz. – The same Cubs team that claimed its $140-million-plus payrolls of a few years ago were “unsustainable” and that has continually cried publicly for its need to increase revenues is also the most profitable team in baseball, according to Forbes Magazine’s latest Major League Baseball team valuations.

During a 101-loss season in which big-league payroll had been cut significantly for a second straight season, the Cubs had an operating income of $32.1 million -- $2 million more than the second-ranked Baltimore Orioles, a playoff team in 2012.

The Cubs also saw the franchise value increase 14 percent, to $1 billion, according to Forbes, ranking it behind only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox in overall value.

Chairman Tom Ricketts has said repeatedly since his family took ownership of the Cubs in the fall of 2009 that all profits would be put directly back into the team and that the baseball operations budget would maintain its same share of the revenue pie, even if major league payroll went down.

But there’s no apparent place within baseball operations that the payroll reductions have been invested. When asked about that discrepancy during his annual talk with the media this spring, Ricketts said:

``You’re kind of comparing it to the Tribune payrolls of the last couple years, which from our standpoint and from the team’s standpoint were just unsustainable. But what I can say is that it’s a closed system. Every dollar does stay in the baseball organization.’’

Perhaps most telling, if not most embarrassing to the Cubs, in the Forbes report is the MLB-high debt-to-value mark of 58 percent – a $580 million load that puts the Cubs far beyond the level considered in violation of MLB’s debt service rules.

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