The Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, is back in court against a Wrigley Field rooftop business — only this time, the Rickettses are facing off against their business partners.
Hickory Street Capital, an entity owned by the Ricketts family, last week sued the owners of 3621-25 Sheffield Ave., location of Down the Line Rooftop. The family invested in the business in 2010 — the extra cash allowed the rooftop deck to reopen at the time — but alleged in a Friday filing in Cook County that it now has the right to buy the property outright.
In the complaint, Hickory Street alleges that in May it notified the property owners — the living trusts of James and Camelia Petrozzini, who both died in 2014 — that Hickory Street’s right to buy the building was triggered when ownership switched to the trusts, according to the complaint.
The property owners disagree that was activated and do not plan to sell the building to Hickory Street, according to the lawsuit. “There is a live and ongoing dispute over the parties’ rights” as described in an agreement between the two sides, the lawsuit states. The owners also claim that the building must be appraised to determine a sale price, according to the suit.
A representative for the Petrozzini living trusts declined to comment. Like a handful of other current and former rooftop business operators, James Petrozzini was a longtime real estate developer in the Lakeview neighborhood.
If the Ricketts family prevails in buying Down the Line, the rooftop business would become the seventh acquired by the Rickettses, all of which have been bought this year. The purchase would fall in with Chairman Tom Ricketts’ plans to gain further control of the neighborhood streets surrounding the historic ballpark. In fact, the Ricketts family made offers to buy all of the rooftop businesses shortly after buying the team in 2009, according to court records in a separate case.
The Ricketts family acquired its first three rooftop buildings earlier this year, including two from George Loukas, who helped start the rooftop craze years ago.
In other news….Tom Ricketts has his sights set on his next lawsuit which is against the City Of Chicago as he would like to purchase the fire department building that houses Engine 78 on Waveland Ave. directly behind Wrigley Field. When asked why he was doing this, he was quoted as saying,…
The family followed several months later by buying rooftop buildings at 3637 N. Sheffield, which was torn down and rebuilt just for the rooftop business; 3617 N. Sheffield; and 3619 N. Sheffield. The properties had been tied up in a foreclosure lawsuit brought by a bank last year.
In a statement, a Hickory Street spokesman said, “Hickory Street Capital, LLC, invested in this building in 2010 and one of the important terms of the investment contract is the right to purchase the building. The contract includes an appraisal process to ensure Hickory Street pays, and the owner receives, fair market value for the building. Unfortunately, the owner has refused to follow the process set forth in the contract and, after trying without success to negotiate a solution, Hickory Street elected to seek a remedy in court.”
For now, just three rooftop businesses on Sheffield remain free of Ricketts family ownership: Murphy’s Rooftop, at Waveland Avenue and Sheffield and above the Murphy’s Bleachers restaurant, as well as Skybox on Sheffield and Lakeview Baseball Club, which have sued the team in federal court. That suit is pending.
Tension between the businesses and Tom Ricketts has simmered over the future of the rooftops and views into the ballpark. A 20-year contract with the rooftop owners allows the team to collect 17 percent of revenue, but the team’s efforts to add signs threatens the future of those businesses. Earlier this year, a judge in the pending federal case rejected the rooftops’ requests to stop installation of the giant video board in right field.