Huffpost Chicago

Tribune Could Have Made $45 Million Off Wrigley Field Deal With State

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Tribune Co. would have received as much as $45 million and a 5 percent stake in a leased Wrigley Field under a deal involving a state loan of $300 million toward restoring the historic ballpark, a proposal found in state documents shows.

A Nov. 19 memo released Monday night by the Illinois Finance Authority, marked "strictly confidential _ for discussion purposes only," outlines a complicated deal in which a new owner of the century-old stadium's tenant, the Chicago Cubs, would pay $25 million a year for 30 years.

But finance authority chairman William Brandt said Monday night that was simply what Tribune Co. wanted. The media company is trying to sell the Cubs and Wrigley.

"The IFA was nowhere near that deal," Brandt said. "That's so wrong, it's incredibly funny."

He would not elaborate. Brandt has said previously, however, that a deal the authority was negotiating was within the range of $200 million to $300 million.

Secret talks for the pact between Tribune Co., owner of the Cubs and its home field, and Illinois state officials came to a screeching halt Dec. 9 when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges.

Among the allegations was that he pressured Tribune to fire unfriendly Chicago Tribune editorial writers in exchange for helping with a Wrigley Field sale. Blagojevich was indicted by a federal grand jury last week.

He faces 16 counts of wire fraud, racketeering and extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements in a "pay-to-play" scheme to trade government action for personal and political enrichment beginning in 2002.

A spokesman for Tribune, which filed for bankruptcy just a day before Blagojevich's arrest, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The Nov. 19 agreement, released to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, shows the finance authority, through a complex venture, would retain 95 percent interest in a company set up to lease Wrigley to a new Cubs owner until 2039.

In addition to the upfront contribution, the Tribune would control the other 5 percent.

The agreement carries the logos of the finance authority and the Cubs and appears to have been sent from the Tribune's law firm to an attorney representing the state agency.


Associated Press writer Caryn Rousseau in Chicago contributed to this report.