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Wrigley Rooftops Denied Injunction By Federal Judge

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This just in!

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

AMARILLO, Texas -- Just arrived at my hotel in Amarillo to find this tweet:

I don't think any of us is surprised to hear this, and we've discussed the reasons here many times, at length.

Federal Judge Virginia Kendall's ruling is 34 pages long, and you are, of course, welcome to read all of it. I found the introduction charming:

A few things are inevitable when it comes to spring baseball at Wrigley Field: the ivy won’t be green, the weather won’t be warm, there will be many who say, "This is the year," and there will be a battle between the Chicago Cubs and the rooftop businesses that surround Wrigley Field. This spring is no different. The decades-old battle began back in the late 1990s and came to a head in 2002 when the Cubs sued certain Rooftop owners for misappropriating the Cubs’ property rights by selling tickets to patrons to watch Cubs games from the Rooftops.

Rather than having a judge resolve that matter on the law at that time, the parties opted to settle their differences. On January 27, 2004, the Cubs (who were then owned by the Chicago Tribune) entered into an agreement (the "License Agreement") that permitted the Rooftops to continue their business of wining and dining fans on the rooftops of various buildings surrounding Wrigley Field while viewing, albeit at a significant distance, the baseball game being played within the Friendly Confines. The License Agreement in its simplest terms required the Rooftops to give the Cubs 17% of their profits and in return, the Cubs agreed not to erect any barricades that would block the long-distance viewing of the game from across the street.

There was, however, one clause within the License Agreement that permitted the Cubs to have an "expansion" of Wrigley Field if that expansion was approved by a "governmental authority." Therein, lies the rub. The Cubs, under the new ownership of the Ricketts family, are working to make THIS year the year, and in doing so, have received a government-issued permit to update the Friendly Confines with electronic signs and video boards that will entirely block the views of the field from the Rooftop clients. The Rooftops have cried foul and want the signs down, or they assert they will be put out of business entirely. The Cubs instead claim that their move is fair and within the expected understanding of the parties when they entered into the License Agreement eleven years ago.

That's an excellent summary of how we got to where we are in the Cubs/rooftops dispute. To be honest, I wanted to get this posted right away so you can begin discussion, and I haven't read the entire ruling yet, so those of you who are lawyers might want to check it out and chime in. Here's Judge Kendall's conclusion:

Because the Rooftops have failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the Chicago Cubs breached the License Agreement and engaged in anticompetitive practices, and that the Cubs are somehow excluded from the antitrust exemption that applies to Major League Baseball, the Rooftops’ motion for preliminary injunction is denied.

Anyway, the Cubs ought to be able to proceed with all of their plans, and as I have written before, the likely endgame of this is some sort of financial settlement with the Cubs and/or the Ricketts family buying out all the businesses and controlling the rooftop clubs on Waveland and Sheffield.

Now, let's play ball!