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Kenney reveals he has signed 5-year contract extension

With the Cubs hoping to win city approval of the latest revisions to their Wrigley Field renovation plan, business operations President Crane Kenney revealed he has signed a five-year extension through 2019.

Kenney's announcement Saturday during an interview with WSCR-AM 670 host Bruce Levine seemed to catch the Cubs off guard. The Cubs inked him to the extension "several months ago," team spokesman Julian Green confirmed.

The timing of the announcement was unusual, with Kenney admitting to mistakes in the Cubs' communications with City Hall over the proposed revisions.

Chairman Tom Ricketts has firmly been in Kenney's corner, sticking with the polarizing executive despite criticism from fans and the media.

Kenney served as chairman and then president of the Cubs from 2003-2011, when Ricketts brought Theo Epstein over from the Red Sox under the title of president of baseball operations, leaving Kenney to run the business side.

Kenney has been the Cubs' front man for the last several years on the Wrigley renovation plan, and helped negotiate the rooftop agreement that's the crux of the long-running dispute between the Ricketts family and the rooftop owners.

The renovation plan has gone through several changes since its first iteration, when a parking garage, a Cubs Hall of Fame and restaurants were part of a so-called "Triangle building" proposed for the parking lot west of the ballpark.

In the latest plan, revealed last week, the Cubs proposed to build an underground 30,000-square-foot clubhouse beneath a plaza constructed in the triangle lot. Mayor Rahm Emanuel objected to some of the proposals, including widening the doors in the ivy-covered outfield walls to relocate the bullpens, and said the Cubs' plan needs "more work" before confirmation.

Kenney's new contract runs three years longer than Epstein's five-year deal, which ends after 2016. While Epstein is expected to be offered an extension eventually and repeatedly has said he has no intention of leaving, there are no guarantees.

Ricketts can point to the Cubs' publicly-funded spring training complex in Mesa, Ariz., and new revenue streams like the Toyota sign and Captain Morgan Club, as evidence of Kenney's business acumen and importance to the organization.

But there have also been several missteps along the way, including the failed proposal in 2010 to add an 8 percent surcharge to tickets at every spring training ballpark in Arizona to help fund a new facility for the Cubs. White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf led a coalition of 14 Cactus League teams which successfully lobbied to the Arizona legislature to shelve the proposal.

During Kenney's brief term in charge of the front office at the end of 2011, when general manager Jim Hendry was fired and Ricketts decided not to hire an interim GM, he handed vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita a four-year extension. The move shocked most observers, knowing any new GM the Cubs hired would likely bring in his own player personnel director.

Epstein was named president two months later and hired Jason McLeod as Fleita's boss. The following August, Fleita became part of a front-office purge, with current bench coach Brandon Hyde taking his place. Fleita's contract runs through 2015.

The Cubs brought in Green as their vice president of communications in 2011, taking Kenney out of the limelight as spokesman on non-baseball issues.

But Kenney came out of the shadows again last week, in an attempt to sell the revised renovation plan and boost his image as a deal-maker.

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