Talks between the Cubs and rooftop owners are at an impasse amid the first legal shot, continued disagreement over outfield advertising signs and convention weekend rhetoric.
As a result, the much-hyped $300 million Wrigley Field renovation — and the revenue it would bring to improve the team — remains in limbo, with Cubs ownership still trying to persuade the surrounding rooftop clubs to drop threats of a lawsuit before it begins construction.
Differences over the size and placement of a video scoreboard the Cubs would like install in left field brought the negotiations to a standstill Tuesday, said Ald. Patrick O'Connor, 40th, who has been meeting with both sides since late last year to help reach an agreement at the behest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Against that backdrop, rooftop owners sent a message by filing a lawsuit that doesn't involve signs that could block their views.
The rooftop owners sued Marc Ganis, a Chicago sports business consultant, for making allegedly false statements about them in an article published in the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2013. In the story, Ganis is quoted as saying the rooftop clubs were “stealing” the Cubs product for their own profit.
In the suit, rooftop owners said those statements were false and harmed their reputations because they have a contractual arrangement with the team that allows them to sell tickets to people who want bird's-eye views of the games. Ganis did not return several messages seeking comment.
While the team was not named as a defendant, the rooftop owners alleged that when Ganis spoke to the Sun-Times, he was either employed or associated with the Cubs through some other arrangement. Tribune Co., owner of this newspaper, retains a 5 percent stake in the Cubs, and two Tribune Co. affiliates were listed in the lawsuit among others the plaintiffs would seek to question.
Cubs spokesman Julian Green declined to comment on the suit. “Unfortunately, (the rooftop owners) opted yesterday to reject the proposal and file this lawsuit,” Green said in a statement.
The suit came after Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts made comments at the annual Cubs convention that some rooftop owners viewed as disparaging.
“I don't think that (Ricketts) poisoned the thing,” O'Connor said “I just think that he reminded everybody that there's a lot animosity there. We had actually had some very good discussions and some very good exchanges across the table, and he just kind of reminded everybody that we're supposed to not get along.”
As of late last week, the two sides had made some progress, according to O'Connor. There was a verbal agreement to move a large sign from the rear right field wall to one of the buildings across Sheffield Avenue, the alderman said.
But over the weekend, computer images of the video screen in left field were completed, and owners of the rooftop clubs on that side said more of their views were blocked than anticipated, O’Connor said.
“I do believe that the parties will continue to try to resolve this,” O’Connor added “I think that any time there is a lawsuit that is filed or threatened, good lawyers and clients will continue to find ways to develop a settlement as opposed to having one imposed on them.”
The rooftop owners said in a statement that they continue to fight to protect their views. “These most recent proposals that result in significant blockage are non-starters, but we remain committed to finding a reasonable solution nonetheless,” the owners said.