CHICAGO (CN) - Owners of rooftop bars neighboring Wrigley Field claim in court that a sports consultant defamed them by telling the Sun-Times they are "carpetbaggers" who "steal" views of Cubs games - though they pay the team millions of dollars for their views.
Seventeen rooftop businesses overlooking Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, sued Marc Ganis and Sportscorp in Cook County Court.
The Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Cubs, and companies associated with the Ricketts family, the Cubs' owner, were named as respondents in discovery.
The rooftop people can be seen on apartment buildings beyond the outfield walls, across Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, where long home-run balls end up.
The Cubs want to launch a $500 million renovation of Wrigley Field, and the rooftop club owners are alarmed by a plan to erect a 650-square foot sign in right field that will block their view.
Negotiations fell through Tuesday, after stadium financing consultant Ganis told the Sun-Times: "The only reason this deal is not happening is because [Alderman] Tom Tunney is protecting the rooftop owners and a couple of bar owners. That has to be one of the most ludicrous situations in the history of sports facility development.
"Protecting carpetbaggers stealing the product paid for by others for their own profit and, thereby, stopping a $300 million investment, 2,000 permanent jobs and 800 construction jobs along with tens of millions of new city taxes. As a taxpayer in Chicago, one has to hope Mayor Emanuel talks some sense into Alderman Tunney for the good of the city."
That very day, the rooftop owners sued Ganis for defamation, claiming they are not "stealing" seats to Cubs games, but pay millions for their unobstructed view.
The Cubs and rooftop owners "entered into a twenty-year (20) royalty agreement in 2004 which allows the rooftop owners to continue to operate their businesses and use certain Cubs' trademarks in exchange for the rooftop owners paying the Cubs a royalty fee of seventeen percent of the rooftop owners' total gross revenues," the lawsuit states.
"Pursuant to the royalty agreement, the Cubs agreed not to erect windscreens or other barriers to obstruct the views of the rooftop owners.
"The rooftop owners pay annual royalty fees to the Cubs pursuant to the royalty agreement. The total annual royalty fees paid by the rooftop owners to the Cubs pursuant to the royalty agreement are approximately $2,500,000."
The owners say that Ganis' statements "were false when made in that the rooftop owners are not stealing from the Cubs and not preventing employment or taxes for the city since the royalty agreement provides the rooftop owners views of Wrigley Field in consideration for the royalties paid by the rooftop owners to the Cubs pursuant to the royalty agreement."
"The general public reasonably understood that Ganis' statements were about the rooftop owners and that the false statements by Ganis related to all of the rooftop owners, since the entire article discusses how the rooftop owners are 'stand[ing] in the way' of the Cubs' renovation proposal for Wrigley Field, and Ganis' statement immediately before the false statements concerning 'stealing' mentions the rooftop owners in a negative light," the owners say.
They seek punitive damages for defamation, false light and invasion of privacy.
They are represented by Patrick Keeley with Piccione, Keeley & Associates in Wheaton, who did not return a request for comment.
Lawsuits aside, the rooftop people are a venerable institution in Chicago, as they party above and beyond the even more venerable Bleacher Bums, who enjoy the best ticket deal in major professional sports - $7 for a ticket to the bleachers.