January 04, 2010
There’s a naming-rights deal for Wrigley Field after all.
Buried in a 12-page special-warranty deed, which conveys the landmark stadium at 1060 W. Addison St. to a Ricketts-controlled entity, is a November 1981 letter from then-Tribune Co. President Stanton Cook to the now-deceased William Wrigley.
The letter, coinciding with Tribune’s purchase of the team from the Wrigley family, put in writing a handshake agreement between Tribune and the Wrigleys, giving Tribune the right to use the Wrigley name without compensation on the stadium.
It also gave Tribune or the Wrigleys the right to remove the name at any time and stipulated that these rights would be passed on to any subsequent owner of the stadium.
A Ricketts spokesman says that it was a cursory measure to record the letter with the deed, and that the family hasn’t considered any options to either change the stadium’s name or add a corporate sponsor.
Adding a corporate sponsor’s name is considered a more likely change, because it would preserve the Wrigley name for fans and baseball purists. But the letter suggests the Wrigley family could kill such a deal if they object, by threatening to remove their name from the iconic stadium.
Mr. Cook, who retired as Tribune CEO in 1990 and became the Cubs chairman, says that he had never been asked about the deal before Crain’s called, and that it was struck at Mr. Wrigley’s behest.
“He wanted to protect the Wrigley name,” Mr. Cook says.