Ricketts family buys three more Wrigley Field rooftops

The Cubs-owning Ricketts family has purchased three more buildings with Wrigley rooftop businesses, increasing its grip on where Cubs fans spend their dollars around the team’s historic stadium.

Sheffield Finance sold the Sheffield Avenue properties to an entity controlled by the Ricketts family, which now claims six buildings on the street with rooftop businesses.

More than a dozen rooftop businesses line Waveland and Sheffield avenues, charging admission for refreshments and bird’s-eye views of Cubs games. But many have been caught up in the nasty battle with the team that only has escalated since the Rickettses bought the Cubs in 2009.

The Rickettses paid an undisclosed price for the buildings at 3637 N. Sheffield, 3617 N. Sheffield and 3619 N. Sheffield, Cook County property records show. The Rickettses, who will assume no debt on the buildings, also paid an undisclosed amount for the buildings’ rooftop businesses.

Sheffield Finance is an entity owned by Jerry Lasky and Murray Peretz, partners in Spectrum Real Estate, a Chicago commercial real estate business.

A sale was expected after a federal judge last month dismissed a foreclosure lawsuit against the businesses. In November, Fifth Third Bank sued the rooftop operations and their owners, alleging that the businesses owed more than $18 million on mortgages and missed payments. Sheffield Finance later bought a portion of the debt and replaced the bank as plaintiffs in the case.

“I always felt these rooftops were an extension of Wrigley Field and they belong with the Ricketts family,” Lasky, who called himself a diehard Cubs fan, said. “It was a natural fit.”

The Rickettses have a financial interest in a seventh rooftop operation, Down the Line Rooftop. Earlier this year, George Loukas, who helped start the rooftop craze years ago, sold two buildings while James Lourgos and his partners sold another.

Now, just three rooftop businesses on Sheffield aren’t owned by the Rickettses: Murphy’s Rooftop, at the corner of Waveland and Sheffield and above Murphy’s Bleachers; and Skybox on Sheffield and Lakeview Baseball Club, which have sued the team in federal court. That suit is pending.

Like the three purchased earlier, the new rooftops will be managed by Loukas, who owns popular bars in Wrigleyville and still has one rooftop business.

Lasky said he admired how the team is investing more than $500 million into renovating the 101-year-old stadium and neighborhood, and praised the team’s efforts at operating Wrigley. He said he approached team executives — there weren’t other potential buyers — a few weeks ago, completing the deal with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and President of Business Operations Crane Kenney.

“I went to the Cubs and made the transaction with Tom and Crane,” he said. “They were a pleasure to deal with.”

Ricketts has said little about the team’s plans for the rooftops other than that he plans to keep them in operation.

In a statement, the Cubs said, “The Ricketts family has said in the past they are interested in reasonable opportunities to purchase rooftop property and are willing to pay a fair price. In this case, we were able to acquire three buildings. The rooftop situation has been a political and legal morass for more than a decade and the Ricketts family will remain interested in opportunities which make sound business sense.”

The team’s $375 million overhaul of the stadium continues, and the right-field bleachers are slated to open in June. The 3,990-square-foot left field video board was ready for the Cubs’ home opener and the left-field bleachers opened earlier this month.

The transactions bring to an end the involvement of the building’s former owners — Tom Gramatis, once a staunch advocate for the rooftops as they maneuvered the Ricketts and City Hall, and his minority partners Dan Finkel and Max Waisvisz aren’t part of the rooftop businesses.

Many owners of the rooftops surrounding the historic ballpark have said that the Cubs’ outfield wall signs and video boards would block their views into the ballpark and put them out of business.

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