respect wrigleyIt’s a solution that is frequently thrown out there, discussed a little, and then generally discarded.

The solution is the Ricketts Family buying the rooftop buildings that outline Wrigley Field, and the “problem” is the current rooftop owners’ lingering threat of a lawsuit should the Cubs erect outfield signage as part of the Wrigley renovation that blocks their views into the ballpark. The solution is discarded not because it isn’t legitimate – indeed, I think everyone agrees that it could make some sense – but instead because there are so many variables going into whether it’s doable, whether it’s advisable, and whether it’s even being considered by the parties.

Well, according to a report from WTTW in Chicago, we can put a checkmark by the last one. WTTW reports that the Ricketts Family is currently entertaining discussions about the possibility of buying some of the rooftops. Those rooftops, according to WTTW, have come to the Ricketts with an intention to sell, but the two sides aren’t close to an agreement.

Could those be the “discussions” that Mayor Rahm Emanuel assured reporters that the Cubs and rooftops were engaging in?

A Ricketts/rooftop purchase agreement certainly makes sense. On the rooftops’ side, you’ve got an asset with something akin to a depreciation schedule – when your contract with the Cubs ends in 2024, the Cubs can block you out of existence, decreasing the value of your property by a tremendous amount. Selling for the right price before that date comes could be a savvy move. On the Ricketts’ side, you’ve got a desire to own a business with which you’ve been competing for sales, and a desire to ensure there is no blockage-related litigation. If I remember correctly, the Ricketts already have an ownership interest in at least one of the rooftops. They see value there.

That a purchase makes sense hardly ends the discussion. There is the matter of price (the Ricketts will argue that the buildings will soon be worth little more than residential, whereas the rooftops would argue that they’d be far more valuable than that to the Ricketts Family – who blinks first?). And the matter of ownership interest level. And the matter of which specific rooftops to buy. And the matter of what happens when buying Rooftops A and B in tandem makes sense to the Ricketts, but only Rooftop A is interested in selling.

Like I said at the outset: a purchase agreement involving some of the rooftops is a plausible solution to whatever renovation impasse exists. But is it really doable and advisable, given whatever is going on behind the scenes? Well, they wouldn’t call it behind the scenes if we knew.

  • MichiganGoat


    • aCubsFan

      Then tear them down and make use of the properties for something else other than crappy views of Wrigley. Hey how about putting that parking garage that Tunney wants. Or an area for the ‘street fairs.’

      • ssckelley

        No, that would take away what makes Wrigley look neat. But do take down those ugly bleachers.

        • hansman

          Eh, it wouldn’t be too hard to make the parking garages look vaugely similar to apartment buildings.

    • DarthHater


  • Brains

    These suits have to stop being so territorial and hire some players, for gods sake. All of their obsession goes to completely pointless logistics while the only important part of the whole deal suffers.

  • Rich

    Do not allow the Beth Murphy’s to profit from the Ricketts..
    find other revenue dollars…make smaller ads in the outfield…sell the naming rights as
    American Express presents Wrigley Field…I dont care..but buy the buildings?? No

    geez and to think the Cubs locker room is a laughing stock..and we still cant start that project but buy the buildings…..

    whatever is best for the Cubs of course!

    • Brains

      I have to conclude that the Ricketts have no clue in the world what baseball is. They only understand and are interested by business competition.

      • cub2014

        If you are going to be the long time owner
        you have to look at long term solutions. Makes
        total sense to me. Buy up those bleachers.

        Oh and there is no reason they cant also
        increase the payroll by 30m this year.

        • http://deleted cub2014

          duh! i meant rooftops.

      • ssckelley

        So the Ricketts are business people looking to make a profit. I really don’t give a crap, I am glad to see them making proactive moves to get this thing done. IMO, those rooftops should have been the property of the Cubs a long time ago.

      • roz

        Crazy. The owners are business people who deal with all the business aspects of the team. You’re right, they’re dumbasses.

  • Rich

    we have no money, we have to renovate and put a jumbotron so that we can get good players…hey how much for the rooftops?

    but please go ahead and sit on these folding chairs before the game…

    • Brains

      Even Theo, who doesn’t seem too invested in winning within the lifetime of a 17 year cicada, must be annoyed by the prospect of putting funds that we claim we don’t have into a few houses across the street. Who cares about the rooftops?!? They don’t even hold that many fans.

      • Brett

        Your act (intentional ignorance in the quest of shitting on ownership and the front office) is growing tiresome.

        • MichiganGoat

          Its long past “growing”

          • Brains

            goat is one step closer to achieving his dream

            • Cyranojoe

              He’s not the only one with that dream of a rational, reasonable discussion sans trollage.

        • Brains

          comeon, you know i’m great. 17 is a funny number.

          • DarthHater


          • DarthHater


  • josh ruiter

    If I’m Tom, I lowball the rooftop owners and let them say yes or walk. I don’t think at the end of the day, that if the cubs alter their own property it can be seen as a sue-able offense. Or offer the rooftop owners the opportunity to put signage up on the roofs. Split the profit with them 50/50 for the Cubs doing the negotiating and putting the product on the field and for the rooftop owners space.

  • ssckelley

    So are we talking about sale of just the rooftops or the entire buildings? It would be an odd transaction if it was just the roof of a building.

    • Brett

      I can’t tell if you’re picking nits or genuinely wondering – in either case (and both cases are fair), I’ve modified to confirm that we’re talking about the buildings. “Rooftops” is a colloquial expression meaning the entire rooftop building and business – I don’t believe there’s any separation in ownership between the building owner and the business owner.

      • ssckelley

        Not a nit picker here, just curious. In my mind I am thinking this is like buying a condo, or business rights. But if they are talking the entire buildings it opens up additional business ventures, Cub related.

        • Brains

          From a logistical standpoint they could have the most coveted summer Bed and Breakfast complex in the midwest. Instead of fighting with residents, buying is the smart option because they can use the buildings how they’ve always been used, but maximize their synergy between business operations and localized brand identity.

      • Coldneck

        What has surprised me for so long is why the Tribune Company didn’t nut those building years ago when they truly were inexpensive apartments. In hindsight it seems so obvious. I guess that’s what you get when a newspaper company is running a baseball team.

  • Eric

    Block them all now, drag out litigation under after 2024, settle for small sum.

  • cms0101

    I don’t have any problem with the Ricktetts buying up the rooftops. They paid a great deal of money for the Cubs and they had to accept some bad contractual agreements, like the rooftop contract and the TV deal with WGN. They have every right to use whatever leverage they have to improve on those deals. And the business side, I would assume, is taking the lead on all things related to this, so it’s not taking away anything from the baseball operations side. In fact, with additional revenues, it will be a positive for the baseball side. The rooftops created an industry of stealing their product. The Tribune Co. legitimized those businesses with the contract they gave the rooftop owners to pad revenue figures ahead of selling the team. Never mind that it was Crane Kenney who initially brokered that poorly conceived idea in the first place… The rooftop owners should take advantage of any chance they have to cash out their investments before the contract ends.

    • aCubsFan

      Fans love to beat up Crane Kenny for the deal with the RTOs, but has anyone ever thought the deal that was negotiated had little to do with what Kenny wanted and more to do with the corporate chieftains influence?

      That deal didn’t get negotiated and approved in a vacuum. The parameters for the deal more than likely were initially set at the highest levels of the Tribune Company and the final agreement had to go through every level of legal and corporate at the Tribune Company especially when it took over 2 years to negotiate the deal.

      Furthermore, some of the underlying issues related to the deal came from the 2002 lawsuit claiming copyright infringement, unfair competition (trademark infringement), misappropriation and unjust enrichment. A September 2003 analysis of the lawsuit showed the Cubs had no leg to stand on any of the charges. The only issue that the Cubs could have won on was the fact that some of the RTOs didn’t abide by the ‘dentist office exception’ of copyright laws since they had more than one TV on premise.

      Additionally, at the time it seems no one had any idea how lucrative the rooftops would become since the parties were only about $328,000 apart in a settlement agreement. The case analysis shows that the RTOs were offering the Cubs $14/ticket sold and the Cubs wanted $19. They ultimately settled for $2 million annually based on a combined RTO income of $10 million or 17% of gross revenues which a January 2013 report puts gross revenues at about $23 million split between 16 venues.

      I’m not a backer of the RTOs. I think they are stealing product, but when you look at the legal analysis of the Cubs v. Rooftop Owners lawsuit, the Cubs got about as much as they were going to get since there were no copyright lawsuits in place specific to sporting events, there were no licensing precedents in place to follow and the landmark provisions on Wrigley didn’t allow them to erect screens to block the rooftop views.

  • Jim

    They should offer to buy the building + give them a 10 year contract to a suite inside Wrigley Field to watch all the games. That basically buys out their 10 year contract and allows them to use the suite to watch the games or sell it to corporations to still make some coin.

  • Pat

    I’m not sure on why they (Ricketts) would really want the rooftops. Attendance on those has been dropping steadily for years as well, and I think only a part of that is due to the team’s performance.

    When the rooftops opened up to the public, they had been the recipient of 20 years of free advertising on WGN. They were shown (the early version with a handful of building residents and their coolers) and talked about by Harry every home game. Millions of people nationally saw that and thought it would be a fun thing to do once if they ever got the chance. When they finally opened not only were the teams good, but it was the new, hip corporate outing idea.

    The problem is it’s sort of a been there, done that experience. The views are terrible, the food and drink are nothing special. Corporate interest tailed off rather quickly. Part of that can be put on the teams on the field but not all. Which left the rooftops trying to sell individual tickets (a much more difficult job).

    Obviously, for playoff games they would be full. Can they charge enough for those dates to cover the rest of season cost. They must think its possible, but I’m no so sure.

    • ssckelley

      To me this is a logical move, honestly what the people are watching on top of the rooftops is the property of the Cubs. To me this is not much different than sneaking into game or a movie theater without buying a ticket. If the ownership was to buy those rooftops then it is one less hurdle they have to jump over anytime they want to make changes to Wrigley.

      • aCubsFan

        There’s a big difference. According to copyright law at the time, ‘open air’ events like sporting events are public domain. Unlike a movie which has clear cut copyrights and since a movie theater is totally enclosed so they can regulate who gets in and doesn’t.

        According to the Cubs v. Roof Top Owners lawsuit, Wrigley Field built in 1914 was designed to allow neighbors to view the game from their apartments. I don’t think the owners at the time or the Wrigley family had ever conceived the idea that corporations would buy the neighboring buildings and put bleachers on top of the roofs.

  • FastBall

    If I were Ricketts I would tell them this is what I am willing to buy the properties for. They aren’t going to be worth much in April after I get my signs put up. Don’t like it or my price Lawyer Up because I am building my signs and you won’t see shit from your rooftops. I bet I got more money for lawyers than you do. Do you really went to spend your lifes earning on a Lawyer? Wouldn’t you rather take the money and run. If I’m Ricketts I have bulldozers and a wrecking ball out in the street ready to knock those buildings down the day the closing documents are signed. Clear those lots off let there be no doubt going forward you don’t F with my stadium.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Unfortunately, this saga is going to drag out for a long time. The rooftop owners are trying to extort the Cubs. On the one hand they are screwed themselves because a lot of those rooftops have high dollar mortgages. If they can’t have the views and can’t sell rooftop tickets, then there goes their ability to make their mortgage payments while the value of their buildings goes into the toilet. On the other hand they know they have a corrupt city of Chicago more than willing to enable their bad behavior. Emmanuel and Tunney are slimeball weasel patronage loving vote mongering politicians…nothing more. Emmanuel looks like a used car salesman who would sell the rug out from his own mother. Very scumy man.

    Ricketts is screwed. He really is.

    • Jon

      Rahm was Barack ‘Hussein’ Obamas right hand man. Would you expect anything else from him? Chicago is a liberal sewer

      • MichiganGoat


        • mjhurdle

          im still blaming Ross Perot. Everything is his fault, his and Han Solo.

  • FastBall

    Wonder how many times the owners and residents of those building get to vote in elections.

  • Jim Gillmeister

    I heard that the Ricketts already owned at least one, possibly two of the Sheffield buildings. Two buildings went through Bankruptcy a few years ago – don’t have the precise dates, but within the last 5 years. Those may be the buildings the Ricketts purchased. Does anyone have anything more definite?

  • Matt

    I think the Cubs buying the rooftops is the best possible solution. As much as most of us are upset about the legal issues going on and are pretty anti-rooftop right now, I think anyone who says the rooftops don’t add to the Wrigley allure is kidding themselves.

    Buy the rooftops, and if they’re already well-run, keep the previous owners on board to run the show. Keep things as independent as you can (licensing agreements, branding) unless you achieve true cost savings by making a rooftop more Cubs-like.

    If all of this fails, just re-write the contract. Instead of the Cubs getting a 17% share of the rooftop profits, make it 10-12% and erect the signs already. Sheesh.

  • cubs2003

    The first step would be to gain assurance from the city that the Cubs can put up the signs they want if there are no contractual obligations to the rooftops. The Toyota sign certainly sets a precedent, but I’m not sure this is an easy step. The City of Chicago likes to get their hands into everything, especially when there are influential people on the other end. At that point, I don’t see how the rooftops have any leverage once the contracts are up and the Cubs should be able to settle on a buying price, renegotiate contracts, whatever they want.

  • Kevin

    Through a wholly owned subsidiary, the Ricketts should buy all the buildings between the L and Clark St and from Addison to Grace St. Control the entire area and run the business without outside influence.

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