Brandt said he set conditions for the proposed deal—no taxpayer money would be involved, ticket prices could not be artificially raised to repay bonds, Tribune Co. had to guarantee the bonds and the Cubs had to stay at Wrigley for at least the next 30 years.
Nils Larsen, a Tribune Co. executive and close associate to Zell, sent an e-mail Aug. 13 to John Filan, now executive director of the finance authority. "In short, we do not see any substantive reason not to explore this further," Larsen wrote.
The records also provide a further glimpse into the lobbying directed at the governor and others by Marc Ganis, a sports consultant retained by Tribune Co. to assist with the Wrigley deal.
Ganis declined to talk about Project Elwood but said he had "numerous discussions with the governor that had zero to do with the Cubs."
According to the records, Ganis socialized with Blagojevich and his wife, Patricia, going out to dinner with the couple and occasionally for drinks.
One entry on Blagojevich's call logs contains the notation: "Marc Ganis can't do Saturday, 10-18 for dinner, but is available on Friday, October 24 and Saturday October 25. Also Marc wants to know if you want to see Dallas Cowboys play the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. ... Marc can make all the arrangements."
Around that same time, federal authorities began secretly recording Blagojevich's phone calls. They were listening Nov. 3 when Blagojevich allegedly discussed a plan to pressure Tribune Co.
In now-infamous language documented in the federal case against him, Blagojevich allegedly uttered profanities about the newspaper's editorial writers, stating that "our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people." In another secretly recorded call, the governor's wife allegedly can be heard yelling in the background and telling her husband to "hold up that [expletive] Cubs [expletive]."
At one point, Blagojevich wonders whether he should talk directly to Zell, adding that he would tell Zell the state can't help with the Wrigley deal because "your own newspaper is going to argue to impeach."
According to the criminal complaint, Blagojevich instructed Chief of Staff John Harris, who was arrested the same day on related charges, to call someone at Tribune Co. and explain to them "this is a serious thing now."
Blagojevich mused about how much the finance authority deal would mean to Tribune Co. "Like $500 million?"
Harris replied that the total gain to Tribune Co. was somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million.
Harris told the governor he would talk to Tribune Co.'s Larsen. The two stayed in contact over the next month, according to federal court documents and state records.
Harris reported back to Blagojevich that Larsen talked with Zell, "who got the message and is very sensitive to the issue." He told Blagojevich that it appeared Tribune Co. was continuing to reorganize and lay off workers.
"Reading between the lines," Harris said, there would be cuts to the newspaper's 10-member editorial board.
Larsen, who has been interviewed by federal authorities, has repeatedly declined to be interviewed.
On Dec. 8, Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy protection.
That day, Blagojevich told a Chicago Tribune reporter: "I'm confident that an astute businessman like Sam Zell is going to turn this around. And [I] offer a polite recommendation to him. One thing he might want to do is change that editorial policy and change that editorial board."
None of the editorial board members lost their jobs, and top editors with the newspaper said no one from Tribune Co. tried to exert any influence over operations of the board.
Blagojevich's secret talks with Tribune Co.
Newly released state documents reveal the flurry of negotiating between then-Gov. Blagojevich and Tribune Co. over a proposal—code-named Project Elwood—for Illinois to buy Wrigley
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