Case Detail

Case Summary

Coming from Behind: The Chicago Cubs' Resurgence as a 100-Year-Old Startup

Case Number: 5-117-004, Year Published: 2017

HBS Number: KE1000

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Authors: James B. Shein; Evan Meagher

Key Concepts

Business Marketing, Change Management, Corporate Governance, Entrepreneurship, Human Resource Management, Mergers and Acquisitions, Organizational Structure, Private Equity, Turnaround, Restructuring


This "mini-case" summarizes the beloved Chicago Cubs' many years of futility and remarkable turnaround in the early teens of the twenty-first century. Central to the case is the concept that despite being an incredibly popular, billion-dollar franchise holding a special place in the hearts of Chicagoans for more than a century, the organization's sale from the Tribune Company in 2009 to the Ricketts family effectively required a full reboot of the company's infrastructure, akin to a startup or to a "carve-out" situation popular in the private equity world. The case resonates because the brand is easily recognizable in an industry with the unique dynamics of professional sports, and yet the company's situation features similarities to any lower-profile organization trying to build or rebuild its SG&A infrastructure from scratch.

Learning Objectives

After reading and analyzing the case, students will learn about unique assets and how their organizational structures can sometimes lead to challenges for their buyers; learn the importance of careful diligence to determine exactly what it would cost to run a carved-out business as a standalone entity; and examine the similarities between startups and carve-outs by private equity firms.

Number of Pages: 7

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Industry: Sports

Organization Name: Chicago Cubs

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2009