Judge decides business is legit

Updated: November 24, 2003, 6:26 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

The Chicago Cubs won a lawsuit on Monday, fending off charges that the team illegally scalped tickets to its own games.

In her opinion, Judge Sophia Hall ruled that Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services -- a ticket broker located around the corner from Wrigley Field and owned by the Tribune Company, which also owns the Cubs -- had "not violated the Ticket Scalping Act, the Consumer Fraud Act or the Deceptive Trade Act" in reselling what it claims are extra tickets to Cubs games, at prices well above face value.

The class-action lawsuit claimed that the tickets offered by Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services were never offered to the public before being turned over to the ticket brokerage. That would violate a state ticket-scalping law that was put in place in 1935 and upheld as constitutional in the state supreme court in 1974.

Tribune attorney James Klenk had said that Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services was a separate business from the Cubs' business and that the tickets were never offered to the public because they came from the team's allotment usually reserved for special guests. Klenk claimed that other ticket brokers were behind the class-action lawsuit, adding that one of the plaintiff's lawyers, Richard Hamid, is a licensed broker himself.

Hall wrote in her decision that it was clear that the Tribune Co. owned the Cubs and the ticket service, but that the ticket scalping law does not prevent such an alliance or prohibit business between a corporation and its affiliate.

"We're obviously very disappointed with the decision," Paul Bauch, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, told ESPN.com. "Now the Cubs can give 20,000 tickets a game to their own brokerage and this whole notion that they have to post the prices and sell at those prices has become completely meaningless."

Bauch said he now expects more teams that are successful at the box office to give this practice a try.

"I expect a lot more teams are going to jump on the bandwagon," said Bauch, whose clients can still appeal the decision. "Why not do it, if they can restrict the supply, drive up prices and sell them for more."

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter