Buying a landmark often comes with unique challenges people don’t have to worry about when purchasing just any old building. In addition to the location and the features of the building itself, buyers of a landmark also have to think about how they can preserve the value of that building as a landmark, especially once the former occupants have left the building.
The Tribune Tower stands on what is known as the Magnificent Mile and has been a landmark of the city since it was first built in 1925. It has housed the offices and newsroom of the Chicago Tribune ever since and currently bears a sign of the Tribune’s logo along the top of a low-rise section of the building overlooking the plaza. Commuters have seen that iconic logo every day for decades as they drive or ride the train past the building, but apparently they won’t be able to for much longer.
The newspaper’s lease is set to expire at the end of June, but the company says it is planning to move out before then and relocate to the office complex of Prudential Plaza. Instead of overlooking the Chicago River, their offices will look out over Millennium Park.
When it moves out of Tribune Tower, the Chicago Tribune has said it plans to remove their logo from the building, but the owners of Tribune Tower claim that’s a violation of their lease agreement.
CIM and Golub, the joint venture that bought Tribune Tower in 2016 for $240 million, allege the lease that the Chicago Tribune and its parent company, Tronc, had with the previous owners includes a provision that allows the owner of the building to purchase a “roof installation” (including the sign) from the newspaper for $1. According to CIM and Golub, since they took on the lease when they bought the building, they are now claiming the right to buy the newspaper’s iconic sign.
But the newspaper disagrees, saying the sign is not an “installation” under the terms of the agreement. While the logo certainly has value to the property owners of Tribune Tower, it is also extremely valuable to the newspaper because it’s not just a sign that tells people which company operates in the building – it is the newspaper’s distinct logo. That means it’s part of the newspaper’s brand, and as such, the newspaper has a vested interest in protecting that logo, including controlling where it is displayed. To have it remain on a building out of which the newspaper is no longer operating, runs the risk of diluting the brand, thereby making it less valuable and causing potential harm to Tronc and the Chicago Tribune.
CIM and Golub have filed a lawsuit against the newspaper and its parent corporation for the right to buy the company’s sign. Although the Chicago Tribune has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, it has released a statement that says the company is aware of the lawsuit and remains committed to protecting its intellectual property – including their logo.
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