The Cubs and rooftop business owners continue to go at it, as the Cubs were once again in court in a new suit, the first since the city approved the renovations to Wrigley Field.
The Chicago Cubs and owner Tom Ricketts found themselves being sued in federal court on Tuesday, as a group of Wrigley rooftop businesses accused them of a price-fixing scheme and violating their revenue-sharing contract. The group accused the Cubs of using the scheme to fix to monopolize the market for game tickets. This just exhausts me every time I hear it. The Cubs are being sued for “price-fixing” tickets for the service they provide.
The investors, led by Edward McCarthy, own the businesses at Lakeview Baseball Club, at 3633 N. Sheffield Ave., and Skybox at Sheffield, at 3627 N. Sheffield. They are also seeking an injunction and financial relief to stop the Cubs from blocking the view of the rooftops. You know, that big project the Cubs have going on where there are no walls in the outfield right now. Just stop doing that the rooftop owners are saying.
The team was already approved by the city for the $375 million project that includes six advertising signs and a large-scale video board in left field.
The 58-page lawsuit claims that Ricketts and the Cubs told the owners that they were driving down the demand for tickets inside the stadium, and that the Cubs offered the price-fixing solution. When the rooftop owners declined, the Cubs allegedly threatened with the signs to intimidate them, or have their views blocked. According to the suit, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said,
"“We don’t like you competing against our bleachers and grandstands,” Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney allegedly told McCarthy last year after the city approved the team’s package. “How hard is it going to be to sell tickets when you have no glimpse of Wrigley Field?” h/t Jared Hopkins, Chicago Tribune"
Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel like the Cubs would be a little more savvy than that in the meetings. Seems a little juvenile, and to be honest quite far-fetched. The investors also accuse Ricketts, whose family bought the team in 2009 for $845 million, of defaming the rooftop businesses and committing fraud when at the 2014 Cubs Convention he compared the businesses to a person “charging people money to wrongfully watch a neighbor’s pay-television through their window.”
In my opinion, this is EXACTLY what is happening. He didn’t defame them. He identified them for what they are. Previous ownership entered into a terrible agreement that is hampering the Cubs ability to operate their business. Ricketts has decided he’s not letting the neighbors tell him “don’t put up new curtains, we can’t see the pay per view movie you’re watching if you do.”
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On May 8, 2012, Ricketts and Cubs executives met with at least nine owners. They said that demand for tickets inside Wrigley was declining because the rooftop businesses’ offered discounted tickets, including Groupon, and game-day tickets. The team asked them to “agree with the Cubs on setting coordinated, minimum ticket prices.” Have you ever took a peek at the rooftops on some days? There’s no one there on many occasions. There are games when they’re packed, but not that many, not enough for the Cubs to say that.
On Feb. 4, 2013, Ricketts complained to the rooftops again. This time he cited how the rooftop businesses began selling tickets for the Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley before the team’s tickets went on sale, robbing the team of the chance to set the concert’s initial market price.
Again, the Cubs – within their facility – are undercut by their neighbors who begin selling tickets to their event first. Selling “lawn seats” essentially, driving down prices for the Cubs.
The lawsuit comes just days after the Ricketts family purchased three neighboring apartment buildings and their rooftop businesses. The deals were long-expected after months of negotiations as the Cubs have continued efforts to control the dollars that Cubs fans spend during the season.
I’m very passionate on this for a lot of reasons. First, I understand the rooftop businesses entered into the agreement with the Cubs previous ownership – an agreement that should have never been made – and the team has changed their plans. But the Cubs should be able to operate their business without being concerned what anyone thinks. I want a winner in Chicago. My family is from Chicago. It’s in my blood. And if these rooftops are going to set that process back, then I fully agree with Ricketts to put it all up and deal with the repercussions later.