With all of the discussion regarding the Wrigley Field renovation plan and the Chicago Cubs’ ongoing battle with the rooftops, one thing has never been publicly discussed — the actual wording of the contract between the Cubs and the rooftops because no one has publicly acknowledged what that contract says.
Some say the contract has never ventured outside of the spooky old house at the top of Old Mill Road. Some say that on a clear night you can hear the screams of a fountain pen signing the contract. These are the stories that made Todd pee himself at Crane’s sleepover last weekend.
In a CSN exclusive I have obtained a copy of the contract, I have had lawyers review the contract and I have the exact wording used in the deal.
Oh, thank goodness some lawyers are reviewing the contract a decade after it was signed. I was a bit worried the Cubs had entered into a really terrible deal that subjected them to the whims of a bunch of freeloading assholes. I SURE HOPE THERE’S AN AMENDMENT CLAUSE!!!
You can make your own judgements about who is in the right, who is in the wrong and who might win a potential litigation…
…but one thing is for sure: This contract — signed in January of 2004 and at the time provided the Chicago Cubs with a new and significant revenue stream — has become a major nightmare for a team looking to jumpstart its business plan.
BOSS: What this plan needs is a kick in the behind, pardon my French. A shot in the arm. A jumpstart. Johnson, what do you have?
JOHNSON: Okay, what if we waive the online fees for buying ticket packages?
BOSS: You mean those bullshit fees we’ve been charging and using to pump into our sentient robot programTM?
BOSS: Good idea. What else?
JOHNSON: Well, sir, I- No. No, it’s far too stupid.
BOSS: What is it, Johnson? I don’t have time for your wavering.
JOHNSON: What if we have a mascot, sir? You know? To bring the kids in?
BOSS: I like it so far. What are you thinking?
JOHNSON: Well, a cub is a baby bear. And the team name is the Cubs. And kids love teddy bears. And weirdos love people dressed in furry costumes. So, what about a big bear?
BOSS: CAN THE BEAR BE NAKED FROM THE WAIST DOWN?
JOHNSON: I- I guess.
BOSS: CAN THE BEAR WEAR A BACKWARDS HAT TO SIGNIFY THAT HE IS HIPPER THAN OTHER BEARS?
JOHNSON: As long as it’s a Cubs hat, I don’t see why not.
BOSS: CAN WE NAME IT WAVELAND???
JOHNSON: We can. But how about Clark?
BOSS: You’re a goddamn genius, Johnson.
If it ends up in a legal proceeding, I believe the Cubs would win, but it won’t be easy. It will be expensive and there is no sure thing. That’s why I still feel a settlement is the best solution for both sides and I believe one will eventually happen sooner or later.
This is exactly how I advise all of my clients. And then I slap them on the ass and send them to the showers.
Now, I am not a lawyer (although I did get accepted to law school way back when and my late father was a very successful attorney), but my opinion was sealed after talking with multiple attorneys who have reviewed parts of the contract at my request.
Here is the admission process for some law schools:
Q: Do you have access to $100,000?
Q: Are you willing to give it to us over the course of three years?
The agreement, which is dated Jan. 27, 2004 runs until Dec. 31, 2023…
Without even looking at the rest of the agreement, I can already tell you that entering into almost any sort of deal that spans more than five years is a terrible, terrible idea.
…and says a number of very interesting things above and beyond giving the rooftops the right to run their businesses.
“It says here that once a fortnight, the general manager has the power to claim the right of Prima Nocte.”
Among them includes a provision that says that the following:
6.6 The Cubs shall not erect windscreens or other barriers to obstruct the views of the Rooftops, provided however that temporary items such as banners, flags and decorations for special occasions, shall not be considered as having been erected to obstruct views of the Rooftops. Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this agreement, including this section.
The first draft of this section just read, “NO PERMANENT ERECTIONS,” but Andy MacPhail wouldn’t stop giggling.
7.3 From time to time during each season, the Cubs shall authorize WGN-TV or other Cubs broadcasting partners to identify a phone number where fans can call to reserve Rooftop seating.
7.4 The Rooftops shall have the right to inform the public that they are endorsed by the Cubs.
I’ve been angling for a similar endorsement of HJE. “Hire Jim Essian: The only part-time Cubs blog that uses small enough words for Todd to understand.”
7.5 The Cubs Director of Marketing shall meet with the Rooftops before the start of each Major League Baseball season to discuss opportunities for joint marketing.
And every since the agreement was signed, on March 1 of every year, the Cubs Director of Marketing climbs to the top of the scoreboard and shouts obscenities at the buildings across the street.
7.6 The Cubs shall include a discussion about the Rooftops on their tour of Wrigley Field and shall include stories positive about the Rooftops in The Vine Line.
“And just over the bleachers on both sides of the park, the fuckwads who keep selfishly hamstringing the front office’s efforts to construct a championship team can be found. And that concludes our tour. Please take your complementary dozen eggs and six rolls of toilet paper, and enjoy the rest of your day in Chicago!”
7.7 Each of the Rooftops may display broadcasts of Cubs games to patrons at its facility, including displaying such broadcasts on multiple television sets, without any infringement of any copyright owned by the Cubs or its assignees.
The fact that the Rooftops were showing the game broadcasts on multiple televisions became an issue and one of the things that spurred both sides to agree on this deal back in 2004.
Seems like the Cubs could have just cease-and-desisted them instead of jumping into bed with them, handing them a strap-on, presenting, and biting into a pillow.
Now, looking at some of the above clauses in the contract, we find some very interesting things.
“What’s this picture of Andy MacPhail putting nipple clamps on Dusty Baker doing in here?”
First, it appears to me that the Cubs were giving the rooftops an avenue to run their businesses in exchange for a significant amount of revenue, which was a new stream for the franchise.
You mean like a WAVELAND Avenue, right?
Section 6.6, the main point of contention between the two sides, can be interpreted in different ways.
THAT’S SOME GOOD CONTRACT DRAFTIN’!!!
I spoke with a noted attorney…
/looks over at phone
…who reviewed the entire agreement for me.
It’s going to be hilarious when an $8,000 invoice shows up at the CSN offices.
Here is what he said about this section of the contract:
“The last line of 6.6 is the one that an arbitrator might have to decide,” he told me. “And let’s be clear that unless both sides agree, the contract does not provide an avenue for a lawsuit in the typical sense of the word. Instead, it sends both parties before an arbitration panel. The arbitration process will keep everything in the litigation confidential, as opposed to a federal lawsuit, which becomes part of the public record.
What a dickhead way to say there’s an arbitration clause.
“Now, in looking at 6.6, the question that will have to be decided is whether or not the word ‘expansion’ will apply to a sign or Jumbotron. Looking at the wording of the contract, any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this agreement, including this section. Is a sign in right field or a Jumbotron in left field an expansion of Wrigley Field? Or is an expansion of Wrigley Field something that would have to include seating or making the ballpark bigger? This is no slam dunk win for the Cubs, although I think they would ultimately prevail, but I would say the same about the rooftops.”
What a fucking lawyer. “Depending on who’s writing the check, am I right, Davy boy???”
///threatens her with termination
Now, with the Cubs looking to expand the outfield walls, the case can clearly be made that the project is an expansion of the ballpark rather than just putting in a Jumbotron and an outfield sign. Will an arbitration panel see it that way? That remains to be seen, but by building out the walls, the Cubs have clearly made a case that by the terms of the contract, they can proceed with their renovation plans with governmental approval.
What the arbitration panel will see, is hard to define.
Other observations that I have after reading and re-reading the entire contract multiple times includes the amount of promotional exposure the Cubs are supposed to provide the rooftops.
The first time, he read it out loud. By the third time, his lips were only moving slightly.
Consider that for a moment.
The very people that you are battling against so fervently are the same people that you are supposed to promote when the season begins? That is unbelievable.
And that is SO Kap.
Sources have confirmed to me that those marketing meetings have not been taking place for the past several years and that there is no joint marketing going on between the two sides.
Contract: VOIDED. I just saved you hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, Theo. YOU’RE WELCOME. Now please fire Crane.
Another very important part of the contract is Section 6.2 which could be an integral part of any potential litigation:
This is just how I like to read my contracts: out-of-order and only partially revealed.
6.2 If the Cubs expand the Wrigley Field bleacher seating and such expansion so impairs the view from any rooftop into Wrigley Field such that the Rooftop’s business is no longer viable even if it were to increase its available seating to the maximum height permitted by law, and if such bleacher expansion is completed within eight years from the Effective Date (1/27/2004), then if such Rooftop elects to cease operations before the beginning of the next baseball season following completion of such expansion, the Cubs shall reimburse that Rooftop for 50% of the royalties paid by that Rooftop to the Cubs during the time between the Effective Date and the date of expansion of the Wrigley Field bleachers. The Cubs shall pay such reimbursement to the Rooftop within 30 days of receiving notice from the Rooftop it is no longer viable and has ceased operations. Any Rooftop receiving payment from the Cubs pursuant to this provision shall cease operations for the remainder of the term and shall not seek or accept any compensation or benefit related to activity on a Rooftop on a day of a game.
Holy shit, that’s a horrible clause. If the Cubs had expanded the bleachers during that time frame and blocked the view, they would have essentially had to buy out the rooftop owners? Was Crane Kenney not aware that the 17% of revenue the Cubs were making off the fucking rooftop owners could have EASILY been made up by adding bleacher seats inside the park that they actually owned and controlled? And they wouldn’t be dealing with this miserable contract for the next ten years?
Also, this clause is terribly written. If the Cubs expand the bleachers next year, the expansion wasn’t completed within eight years from the effective date. Does that mean they don’t owe the rooftop owners a dime? The way this clause reads, I think that’s an easy argument to make.
The legal opinions on this clause look at the eight-year period that the Cubs are liable for potentially having to refund royalties and believe the Cubs could possibly win on an arbitrator’s opinion of this section of the contract. Are the Cubs only liable for damages during the eight-year period that the agreement states? Or are they liable for the entire 20 years of the contract? It certainly seems that the Cubs have a solid chance to have an arbitration panel agree with them that the eight-year period (which expired on Jan. 27, 2012) was the only time in the contract that the Chicago Cubs were on the hook for a financial penalty or a return of royalties.
I don’t see how there’s any other way to read that clause. The idiots were guaranteed revenue from this horrible deal for the first eight years of that contract. That time period expired. Fuck ’em. If they want to sue over it, I’m sure they can pay the legal fees from all the money they made freeloading off the Cubs’ product for decades before.
Finally, to wrap up everything that we have discussed and analyzed in this agreement, I turned back to one of the attorneys who I had review the contract and here is what he said:
“Please stop calling me until you remit payment for my invoice dated January 15, 2014.”
/smokes cigar in conference room
//hands new associate a file up in front of Judge Flanagan
“I can see this case from both sides of the argument. The Rooftops feel they signed a contract to run their businesses without having their views obstructed in any way for a period of 20 years from Jan. 27, 2004 through Dec. 31, 2023 and that they have paid the Chicago Cubs a significant amount of money for that right.
Then either they or their lawyers are fucking idiots. Maybe both?
Now, they feel the Cubs want to violate that contract because a significant renovation to the entire Wrigley Field campus threatens to impede their views and their ability to earn a living.
Without seeing the rest of the contract, there is absolutely no argument here in favor of the rooftop owners other than, “THAT’S UNFAIR BECAUSE WE DIDN’T READ OR DRAFT THE CONTRACT CAREFULLY!” Good luck in arbitration, dummies.
“From the Cubs perspective, they believe that they have lived up to the contract and that the written agreement says that with governmental approval, any expansion of Wrigley Field shall NOT be a violation of this agreement. The Cubs also believe the eight-year period for returning royalties has expired, which means there is no avenue for damages. The Rooftops would proceed at their own risk, so to speak. The Cubs also have been careful to phrase everything that they have done to the park over the past several years as an expansion rather than as a renovation or remodeling of the park and the surrounding area.
Good. Because that’s the correct legal argument. Based on the face of the contract. Which, though terribly-written, can really only be interpreted one way.
“So, if the case goes to court and ends up in front of an arbitration panel, it could and most likely will hinge on the interpretation of the word ‘expansion.’ Is adding a Jumbotron, another outfield sign and moving the walls to limit the blockage to the Rooftops an expansion or is it simply a phrase being used to try to allow a Jumbotron and more outfield signage? This one could be tied up in court for a while and I think it is probably going to go the Cubs’ way, but it is not a slam dunk. The fact though, that City Hall and Mayor Emanuel wants this to happen and that the Cubs will be bringing more jobs and more taxes into the City of Chicago (which desperately needs the revenue) leads me to believe both sides will be highly motivated and encouraged to settle this before it gets caught up in a lengthy court case that will cost millions of dollars for both sides in legal fees and will keep the Cubs from starting their renovation project. And, just to be clear, I understand why the Cubs don’t want to start parts of the project without total approval. Should they begin digging and the case drags on, they will have no leverage at all to reach a settlement.”
It could also hinge on the definitions of “barrier” and “windscreen.” The only thing a scoreboard showing Darwin Barney’s batting average serves as a barrier to is him getting a new contract.
Finally, in doing significant research on this dispute, I was able to read the following public document which is the result of a City Council of Chicago meeting and subsequent vote on July 24, 2013 which passed 49-0 by the Chicago City Council:
“Specifically, but without limitation, Applicant shall have the right to expand the Wrigley Field bleachers to install (i) a new video board in left field, which may include an LED sign, a neon illuminated sign above it and two light towers to assist in outfield lighting; and (ii) a neon sign in right field, which signage has been approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and, in addition to being part of the bleacher expansion, and along with all other signage contemplated by this Planned Development, is integral to the expansion and renovation of Wrigley Field and the development and redevelopment of the Property as contemplated herein.”
I could totally be missing something, as I don’t pay as much attention to Wrigley renovations as some people, but could this just be papering the trail for the modifications that already happened? Especially considering it passed unanimously?
Thus, the argument can be made that the City of Chicago has granted the Cubs a permit to expand the bleachers, to add signage, lights, etc. and they have called it an expansion. Further, the economic protection period of eight years has lapsed.
“I rest my case.”
//trips over swinging door leaving courtroom
“Mr. Kaplan, court is still in session!”
The Cubs’ position in the rooftop agreement appears to be as follows: The Rooftops pay the Cubs 17 percent for 20 years with no guarantees their views won’t change. The Cubs feel they offered economic protection for the first eight years, which lapsed Jan. 27, 2012. The Rooftops depended on the City never approving a change to the landmark ordinance or approval of a subsequent bleacher expansion. Both of those approvals came in July 2013.
Again, I go back to the lawyer that I had review the contract and this City Council document:
“After looking at the wording that the Cubs have used consistently and that the City Council of Chicago also used and approved by a 49-0 vote, I believe it strengthens the Cubs’ position against the Rooftops in a potential lawsuit,” he added. “Again, no one can predict what an arbitration panel could decide, but it certainly seems the Cubs have done all they could do to demonstrate and prove that the entirety of the project — which includes a Jumbotron and signage — is indeed an expansion. If that is what it is and it ends up in front of an arbitration panel and they agree, then that will remove the roadblock standing in the way of the entire Wrigley renovation project.”
ESQUIRED, MOTHER FUCKERS!!!