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respect wrigleyThe Chicago Cubs are reportedly prepared to seek a permit to put up an advertising sign in right field, previously approved by the relevant Chicago bodies, which would impact the views of some of (one of?) the rooftop buildings with whom the Cubs currently have a revenue-sharing agreement. That decision emanates out of an apparently troubled negotiating session on Tuesday, and the rooftops’ decision to file a lawsuit implicating the Cubs.

I was able to get my eyes on a copy of the complaint filed by the rooftops (thanks to Matt Spiegel for the assist; give him a follow or a listen), and gave it a basic review. As has been reported, the gist is the rooftops suing Marc Ganis, a sports consultant, for allegedly defamatory statements he made to the Sun-Times last year. The thrust of the rooftops’ gripe is that Ganis’ statements – which commented on the rooftops’ “stealing” of the Cubs’ product – were both false and harmful. There are allegations concerning the renovation, but only as they relate to Ganis’s allegedly defamatory statements. To be quite clear, this is not a lawsuit about the outfield signage or the overall renovation and development plan.

However, I think that the Cubs are more strongly implicated in this suit than has been reported. The Cubs, including their owners and related entities, are named as “respondents in discovery,” which means they are not defendants at this time. But, the rooftops claim that, at the time Ganis made the allegedly defamatory statements, he was “acting within the scope of his employment or association with the Cubs in promoting the Cubs’ position with the City of Chicago and the public.” Further, the rooftops seek to hold the Cubs liable for Ganis’s statements should he be found to have been acting in the scope of such a relationship with the Cubs (if one actually existed).* For now, the rooftops seek only to include the Cubs in discovery – i.e., to be able to ask the Cubs questions and seek documents – so that they can determine whether the Cubs, or other entities, should be included in the suit as defendants. Depending on that discovery, or on the Cubs’ desire to litigate, the Cubs could at some point in the near future become defendants in this suit.

In part, adding the Cubs as potentially liable for Ganis’s actions is merely a “deep pockets” maneuver, common in litigation. But, because the allegation amounts to the rooftops claiming the Cubs smeared the rooftops publicly by way of Ganis, it’s easy to see why the Cubs could see the lawsuit as a shot across the bow. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that, with the statute of limitations ready to run on Tuesday – the same day as the contentious meeting – this very suit was held on the table by the rooftops as a threat to get a deal done that day. A deal didn’t get done, and the lawsuit was filed. Time ran out.

That is all to say that, while this particular lawsuit is not about the renovation or the outfield signage, the existence of the suit is probably very much related to those issues. The rooftops may now have a touch more leverage than they did a week ago, but they’ve also probably got a very angry entity across the table.

*(It gets particularly thorny if you extend the rooftops’ argument further: what if they contend that statements like the one made by Ganis sufficiently swayed public opinion against the rooftops, thus pushing the various political entities involved in the planned development process to side with the Cubs? Could the rooftops then argue that, but for these kinds of statements, the planned development wouldn’t have been, and shouldn’t have been, approved? If you’re thinking that’s an extremely tenuous line of argument, I’d agree with you. But, in law, an argument is an argument, and if you’re backed into a corner, you’ll make any argument you can find.)

In the interest of fairness and balance, I am compelled to note that, because the statute of limitations was about to run on the rooftops’ ability to sue Ganis for his remarks (it literally would have expired the day they filed the suit, meaning if they waited another day, they could no longer file), the rooftops could simply have been looking to protect their rights here. And because all of the rooftops have joined in the suit, it is plausible that some of those rooftops’ primary concern with this suit really is the allegation that their businesses have suffered because of the Ganis statements (and the allegedly resulting negative feelings). In that instance, maybe for some of the rooftops, this suit really isn’t about needling the Cubs or gaining leverage in the renovation talks. It could simply be about believing someone did something wrong, and a business was hurt because of it.

As for the strength of the suit, I’m no longer a practicing attorney, so I don’t want to do too much lawyering. I did have a lawyer friend (and BN’er) take a look, and his opinion was that the claims are not particularly strong. In other words, there’s probably not a ton of exposure here for the Cubs, should things turn further sour, and litigation – in this suit – proceeds in force.

Setting aside the lawsuit, there has already been at least one modestly positive update (paired with some more fighting, of course).

The Tribune offers more on the negotiation impasse, with input from Alderman Patrick O’Connor, who had been serving as a kind of mediator. According to O’Connor, the two sides had agreed as of last week that the right field sign would actually be moved back onto one of the rooftops, but when final computer renderings of the left field sign were shown (that’s the video board), the rooftops said there was too much blockage. On the bright side, O’Connor opined that the sides will continue talking and trying to resolve things short of a full-blown court battle.

Hopefully this first lawsuit remains a side battle that never erupts into the big boy we’ve all been fearing. Hell, maybe this first lawsuit gets the sides even more motivated to hammer out a deal.

  • Tommy

    Has anyone seen the actual contract with the rooftops? I find it hard that the Cubs would have ever agreed not to block their views in writing, since they would have had no incentive to do so. I can’t imagine why they would have signed off on anything more than allowing them to view games while giving a percentage of the profits up to the Cubs.

    This whole rooftop issue is extremely frustrating as a fan. I just don’t see how they have a leg to stand on in this. It just doesn’t seem to make much sense.

  • danuditsky

    Let’s end this business with the roof tops once and for all….build a new stadium modeled after Wrigley Field in Arlington Heights or Addison etc. This way the Cubs will own the stadium, the concessions, the parking and any buildings they build around the new stadium. This will create a revenue stream for the team to pay free agents and insure that their farm system keeps producing quality players for many years to come. Wrigley Field has outlived its usefulness. If the folks in Wrigleyville complain about the Cubs moving, and they will, let them address their complaints to the roof top owners and Alderman Tom Tunney.

    • notcubbiewubbie

      AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!!!

      • mr. mac

        I’ve been in agreement on this for awhile. I love Wrigley, but I love the Cubs more. The off the field nonsense should never overshadow the on the field product, and all we (mostly) do is discuss this nonsense. I’m all for the Chicago Cubs of Romeoville.

  • The Ghost of Brett Jackson

    David Kaplan ‏@thekapman 2m
    I just reviewed the entire rooftop contract. It was sent to me and after reading all I can say is Wow.
    David Kaplan ‏@thekapman 1m
    The wow is because it looks pretty good for the rooftops.

    He is not a lawyer that I know of but that doesn’t sound very good. It seems the roofies might have the Cubs bent over the barrel.

    • Sandberg

      Wonder if it also includes damages if the Cubs were to move.

      • Jim

        Or damages if the Cubs were to move out during renovations; if not, Cubs should move out for a season or two and let the rooftops suffer with no income.

    • Jim

      I didn’t see that second tweet.

      • Jon

        It’s so cute now, Kap thinks he’s a lawyer.

        • Internet Random

          I’m not a car mechanic, but I know a flat tire when I see one.

          • mjhurdle

            No offense, but that is a horrible analogy. I don’t work at McDonalds, but I know how to make a hamburger. Does that mean i have credibility reviewing legal documents?
            Should i let someone make changes to my website’s code because they know how to sweep even though they aren’t a maid?

            • The Ghost of Brett Jackson

              Just because it is a legal document doesn’t mean an educated person cannot understand it.

              • mjhurdle

                I would respectfully disagree with that.
                I agree that an educated person might be able to read the document and understand the intent of it.
                But the average educated person has absolutely no ability to gauge the possible legal arguments, the strength of those arguments, the related cases that might come into being, the deadlines or influences that might affect the process of the litigation, etc.

                To create my own horrible analogy, it is like scouting a AA pitcher.
                A scout knows exactly what he is looking for, what trends to watch, how a younger player’s frame typically fills out, what happens to the pitches once muscle is added, exactly how the finger placement is affecting the follow through, etc.
                And educated fan that has done his research may be able to hit on a few of those points, or if he is really devoted might come close to equaling the scout in knowledge, but not experience.
                The average educated fan could tell you what pitch was being thrown, how good the pitcher’s control is, and how the velocity looks.

                To me in this case, Keplan is the average fan, or maybe slightly more depending on his research. He knows the rooftops throws a good looking fastball with late movement. But he doesn’t know how that will translate when the rooftops add 25 lbs, moves up a level, and then tries to add a changeup to his repertoire.

              • JB88

                The thing that usually trips up non-lawyers when it comes to contracts is reading clauses out-of-context or giving undue weight to secondary provisions. The biggest thing with contracts is that you have to read them as a whole. That isn’t always the easiest thing for lawyers to do, let alone non-lawyers.

                It doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, but the practice of law is like learning to speak another language. Sure, everyone recognizes the letters in the language (well, at least with the Romance languages), but it doesn’t always mean you understand what it means. Just takes some practice, usually.

                • inkastad

                  In this particular case – DK could have used legal counsel to come to his conclusions. What do we know?

            • Fishin Phil

              It always comes back to hamburgers.

            • Internet Random

              I’m sorry, but that makes no sense at all.

              The analogy is fine. You just don’t get it, and that’s okay.

              I deal with lay people everyday who are perfectly capable of understanding basic legal concepts and evaluating business deals. I hate to burst your bubble, but most of it isn’t rocket science.

              If Kap lectures on the rule against perpetuities, then I’ll look into his qualifications. If he’s saying a deal looks one-sided, I’m going to give his opinion some value.

              • The Ghost of Brett Jackson

                Exactly, just to dismiss it because he is not a lawyer is short-sided.

              • mjhurdle

                I got the analogy fine, i just don’t agree with it.
                You give credit his opinion on legal matters. That is your right.

                I tend to lean more towards trusting people with actual qualifications, which is my right as well.
                Without any qualifications, all we are doing is basically saying “that is what I expected, so I will agree with it.”
                If Kaplan had come out and said something outrageous “the suit is trivial and should be dismissed and the rooftops should pay Ganis 50 million in damages” no one would believe him. They would say “that sounds ridiculous, no way is that true”. But, because what he says resonates with a predetermined position, it is ok to accept, even though his qualifications are no different no matter what he says, ridiculous or plausible.

                • TWC

                  “I tend to lean more towards trusting people with actual qualifications …”

                  Ha! Hate to break it to you, MJ, but this is the internet. Good luck with that.

                  • mjhurdle

                    why? do people lie on the interwebz?

                    • DarthHater

                      Lying is a meaningless concept in the world of truthiness.

                • Internet Random

                  He said, “it looks pretty good for the rooftops.” I think Kap is qualified to tell me how a deal looks to him. He offered no opinion that I’m aware of on, say, the enforceability of specific covenants.

                  He also used the word “looks” not “is”. He chose his words more carefully than some (shitty) lawyers I know.

                  I’m guessing you’re either a law student or have just recently gotten your bar ticket. What I would tell someone in that position, who is showing your attitude toward the abilities of non-lawyers, is that they’re going to find it very hard to attract and maintain clients if they outwardly exhibit that kind of contempt for lay people.

                  You are, of course, free not to believe that too. Do me a favor, though, and make a mental note of it.

                  • mjhurdle

                    Actually, i left school 6 years ago with a degree in Computer Science.
                    I agree that Kaplan is qualified to say how the deal looks to him. Im not even saying that he is wrong.
                    All I am pointing out is that his opinion is not something that I can put much trust in, simply because I have no idea if he understands what he is looking at or not. If he were more qualified, then I would have something to use to give credibility to his opinion.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                I have no problem with Kaplan taking a look and offering his thoughts, but without any context for what exactly he’s seeing and concluding, I’m surprised to see you making this argument, IR.

                I’m assuming it’s a very complicated contract, given the parties involved … but even that’s unfair for me to say, because I haven’t seen it. So, in other words, I’m not really sure we can say Kap knows what he’s talking about or doesn’t. We really have no idea either way. He might be dead right, or he might not.

                • DarthHater

                  “He might be dead right, or he might not.”

                  Cool! Another great subject about which to assert overstated and intransigent opinions!

                • Internet Random

                  I trust Kap’s judgment to know his limitations and to comment on what he understands.

                  Let me be clear that I’m giving Kap the benefit of the doubt on keeping his commentary in the proper context. I might turn out to be wrong in doing that, but I’ve read, seen, and heard enough of his stuff, for long enough, that he gets the benefit of the doubt with me.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    That’s perfectly fair. He gets it from me, too, insofar as I’m not going to assume he’s making a mistake or anything. My valuable opinion is that I don’t have an opinion on Kap having an opinion. If that makes sense.

                    • Internet Random

                      It does make sense, and my opinion is not so far down the spectrum from that.

                      In a nutshell, I think he’s a sharp guy and I’m not dismissing his thoughts out-of-hand just because he’s not a lawyer.

                      “Not dismissing it”, however, doesn’t mean that I’m blindly accepting it. I do make some adjustment in the weight that I give his opinion to account for the fact that he’s not a lawyer… just not so much weight that it makes me dismiss his opinion.

                      All things considered, I tend to think that, more likely than not, there’s something to it.

  • Medicos

    In the past three years our Cubbies have averaged a record of 66-96. THIRTY GAMES UNDER .500!!!!!

    Since this year’s Triple AAA team is going absolutely nowhere, how about experimenting with this roster??? I’ll bet they just might be more successful than 2011-2013.

    Outfield:

    Almora–CF
    Soler–RF
    Lake–LF

    1B–Rizzo
    2B–Castro
    SS–Baez
    3B–Bryant

    C–Castillo

    Bench–Valbuena, Murphy, Sweeney, Schierholtz, Barney, Kottaras or Bello (possible Cuban signee)

    Starters–Edwards, Jackson, Wood, Johnson, Samardija

    Relief–Arrieta, Villanueva, Rusin, Strop, Russell, Fujikawa

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Hold that thought until 2015. We still have to snag another top 5 draft pick in 2015.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I would have to think that since Kapan is a CSN guy and the Ricketts have a stake in that entity, that he probably has some pretty good sources. And it seems like Patrick Mooney is in the loop too. Why else would they call him the “insider”?

  • Diehardthefirst

    Yesterday’s rumor gaining traction- if Rooftoppers agree to signage only then Cubs will waive any 17% claim to revenue generated by signage- so if Toyota wants to pay $1000000 to put up a roof sign bldg owner keeps it all

  • cubfanincardinalland

    I asked this before, but nobody ever answers a question on here. Doing nothing with Wrigley to me in not really an option. How long can they go without renovating the stadium?

    • TWC

      Twenty-three. The Grateful Dead. Mistletoe. Chopsticks.

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