At least one member of the billionaire family that owns the Cubs was so incensed by the marathon negotiations with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that preceded the renovation of Wrigley Field, he literally suggested moving the team out of Chicago.
That’s the bottom line from private emails published by Splinter and and then discussed in more detail in a Deadspin article on Tuesday.
The Deadspin story claims Todd Ricketts, a leading Republican fundraiser once slated for a top spot in President Donald Trump’s Department of Commerce, was furious with Emanuel in 2013.
That’s when the mayor rejected the Cubs’ request for a taxpayer subsidy to renovate Wrigley, forcing the team to go it alone.
According to Splinter and Deadspin, Todd Ricketts forwarded a story about Emanuel’s refusal to his father Joe with a blistering comment attached.
“I think we should contemplate moving, or at least recognize that we are maybe not the right organization to own the Cubs,” Todd Ricketts wrote.
That was followed by yet another Todd Ricketts email trashing Emanuel without mentioning the mayor by name.
“I just hate the thought of [Cubs Chairman] Tom [Ricketts] having to grovel to this guy to put money into a building we already own,” Todd Ricketts reportedly wrote.
Family patriarch Joe Ricketts replied, “Yes Todd, it makes me sad, it hurts my feelings to see Tom treated this way. He is way superior to the Mayor in every way. I have been brought up to deplore the type of value system adopted by the Mayor of Chicago. This is stating it mildly.”
Ricketts family spokesman Dennis Culloton acknowledged the veracity of what he called the “private stolen emails.”
“Reading those private stolen emails is a reminder that there was an arduous process at the time as the debate went on, how best to save Wrigley Field,” Culloton said.
“But, in the end, the Ricketts family and Mayor Emanuel came together and 1,000 union men and women of the construction trades have been hard at work preserving Wrigley Field for future generations. And the family has invested $1 billion in the neighborhood and $400 million into those union wages.”
Just how seriously did the Ricketts family consider leaving Chicago?
“It was definitely considered. There was discussion about that at the time. Tom made mention of it at a City Club speech,” Culloton said.
Emanuel’s communications director, Shannon Breymaier, said Tuesday that the now-outgoing mayor told Ricketts in 2013 “the same thing he told the owners of the Hawks and the Bulls.”
That is, “You own it, you pay for it.”
She added: “Negotiations can sometimes be heated, but the end result here was good for both the city and the Cubs.”
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley, could not be reached.
Wrigleyville residents have accused Emanuel of going too far by giving the Cubs the go-ahead to put up two video scoreboards, four other outfield signs, extend the Wrigley footprint onto public streets and sidewalks without compensating Chicago taxpayers, and play more night games.
At Emanuel’s behest, the City Council also approved the Cubs’ ambitious plan to develop the land around Wrigley Field with a hotel, an office building and open-air plaza with even more signs.
But the Cubs wanted more — including more night games and the game-day closing of Addison and Clark for security purposes — and apparently blame Emanuel and Tunney for standing in the way.
Although they have yet to choose a horse in the 44th Ward race, the Cubs owners have targeted Tunney after battling him for years over virtually all matters pertaining to Wrigley Field.
A group bankrolled by the Ricketts family has been sending out mailers hammering Tunney for skyrocketing property taxes in Lake View.
That’s apparently because Tunney cast a 2015 vote in favor of the largest property tax increase in Chicago history – $838 million – for police and fire pensions and school construction.