One of the truisms of life is that wherever there is a real estate developer, there’s a lawyer. Lawyers and real estate go together like Han Solo and Chewbacca. Like peanut butter and kids with peanut allergies. Like politicians and sacks of money with dollar signs written on them.
If you thought the sale of Tribune Tower (435 North Michigan Avenue) to CIM Group was going to go through without drama, then you don’t know Tribune. Or should we say “Tronc.” This is the company that so loves its name and heritage that it changed its identity from “Tribune” to “Tronc,” which is the noise your head makes when you’re trying to get that last wet sock out of the washing machine and the lid closes on you.
Tronc is in court because it wants to clean house when it decamps from Tribune Tower for Prudential Plaza. That means it’s going to take the blinds, the toilet paper, the light bulbs, etc… It’s like when your girlfriend dumps you and takes the TV remote to each you a lesson. But in this case, Tribune… er… Tronc… wants to take the big gothic-fonted “Chicago Tribune” sign from the side of the building. The same building it’s leaving. The same name it eschewed in favor of the piece of corporate rocket surgery known as “Tronc.” The noise my grandfather made blowing his nose.
CIM paid $240 million for the Tribune Tower. For that kind of cash, you’d think Tronc could throw in a sign it’s not going to have a place to display anymore. The Chicago Tribune — the newspaper not the sign — got a statement reading, “Tronc’s interest is always preserving its intellectual property rights and controlling the use of its historical Chicago Tribune name.” That word comes from spokeswoman Marisa Kollias of Tronc. The noise a Mac truck makes just before a Tesla plows into it.
CIM contends that it has the right to keep the sign on the tower for a buck. Not an unreasonable assumption, considering that of the 6.38 million houses expected to be sold this year, none of the previous owners are leaving with the numbers from the front door and the mailbox.
But the people at the helm of what used to be the Tribune Company want to protect the Tribune brand. Strangely, none of the tribunes mentioned in the Bible seem to have a problem with a midwestern newspaper infringing on their intellectual property.
It’s not like there’s a shortage of giant gothic-fonted Chicago Tribune signs in Chicago. There’s four of them headed for the scrap heap in the next couple of years, anyway. Two are on the Freedom Center on Chicago Avenue, and two more on the other building sometimes called the Freedom Center across the street. Surely Tronc could buy the signs from Tribune Media before those buildings are torn down for redevelopment. That’s “Tribune Media,” as in “the spin-off of the company that didn’t hate its own name.”
What are they going to do with five giant Chicago Tribune signs at the new home of Tronc, the noise a grass-hidden bullfrog makes when you step on it in your bare feet on a damp summer’s night? It’s not like Prudential is going to let the north-of-the-river newcomers get a piece of their rock. That thing is carved into the building.
But perhaps there’s room for compromise. As long as Pru doesn’t mind sharing a toothbrush with a gray lady packing lots of baggage and a funny-sounding name. Tronc.