At the Cubs Convention this past weekend, Cubs officials took a surprisingly sharp tone with respect to the rooftops that have long been among the most significant hold-ups in the renovation of Wrigley Field. At the time, I wondered if it meant things weren’t going well in talks to have a deal in place so that the renovation could start … or if it meant things were going so well that the Cubs knew they had all of the leverage. The Cubs, themselves, said that recent discussions had been productive.
Maybe not anymore.
The Sun-Times today reports that discussions have fallen apart after a particularly contentious meeting yesterday, and after the rooftops today sued Marc Ganis, a former Tribune consultant, for comments he made last year about the Cubs/rooftops dispute. The Cubs are named in the lawsuit, according to the Sun-Times, albeit for now as a “discovery” party (i.e., the rooftops are saying they’re going to want to seek discovery from the Cubs*, not necessarily damages). It’s a little tricky to say precisely why this suit is happening right now, since there’s the obvious Cubs/rooftop/negotiation connection, but there’s also a statute of limitations that was going to run out as of yesterday, when the suit was filed.
*(Drawing on some past experience, when two parties are engaged in a financial negotiation (especially one that might lead to future litigation), one thing you’d love to be able to do is ask the other side for all of their internal financial documents. I’m not saying the rooftops don’t have a reason to sue Ganis for his comments – I’m not making any comment in either direction – but I could see a scenario where what the rooftops really want is information from the Cubs. Discovery from one case might help them if there is a future legal battle about the renovation, in total. In other words, the suit against Ganis could be the start of “the litigation” we’ve all been fearing. But, as I said: there was also the statute of limitations to consider. The rooftops could simply have been trying to protect their own rights.)
Apparently that negotiation breakdown yesterday, and the lawsuit today, has pushed the Cubs away from the negotiating table. You can, and should, read the Sun-Times piece for more details and context. It even sounds like the Cubs might now go ahead and put up the see-through advertising sign in right field (the one that was the most contentious), since they have City approval to do so. I can only assume the Cubs would be expecting a hostile reaction from the rooftops if they took that step.
In a statement released by the Cubs to the Sun-Times and to Greg Hinz at Crain’s, this could be ugly.
“We have worked hard to reach a resolution with our rooftop partners which would have helped preserve their views, including reducing the number, size and location of our signs,” a Cubs spokesman said in the statement. “Unfortunately, they opted yesterday to reject the proposal and file this lawsuit. Since our approvals last year, we have been anxious to get the Wrigley Field renovation started. Yesterday’s action will certainly force additional delays to our project.”
Now then. We’ll see how things actually proceed, because, while litigation can be lengthy, unpredictable, and expensive, it can also sometimes be the thing that pushes sides to actually work out an agreement.
Hopefully, the Cubs saying that the lawsuit will “certainly force additional delays” is more about applying public pressure than anything else. But, as I’ve said all along, however you feel about the parties or the issues, litigation was the one thing nobody wants.
I won’t pretend to be able to tell you what happens next until we get a little more information. I’m still waiting to review the suit for myself, and we’ll await a response from the rooftops, as well.
Great day, huh?