A sports business consultant hired by Tribune Co. to help with a possible sale of Wrigley Field to the state of Illinois commiserated over declining newspaper quality with a top aide to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and sought a spot on Chicago’s 2016 Olympic panel to help the since-ousted governor, e-mails released Monday showed.
Marc Ganis was retained by Tribune Co. and dealt with the Blagojevich administration over possible attempts by the state to help the company structure a sale of Wrigley Field. Tribune owns the Cubs, the ballpark, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.
Tribune Co. officials have refused to publicly disclose details about their contacts with the Blagojevich administration, even though those contacts are part of the federal corruption investigation that resulted in the former governor’s arrest Dec. 9. Also arrested that day was John Harris, Blagojevich’s chief of staff.
In an exchange of e-mails between Ganis and Harris on the day before the arrests, Ganis provided Harris with a copy of a news story noting that Tribune Co. had filed for bankruptcy. Harris responded, “Lousy product. Inevitable.”
“I feel what you are saying,” Ganis responded to Harris. “It’s not just the Chicago Tribune (and your comments are completely understandable). The whole newspaper industry has gone downhill and now we are seeing the effects of decades of monopolistic, insulated, ivory tower, ‘I buy ink by the barrel so what I say is right’ attitude.”
Ganis also noted the Cubs were not part of the firm’s bankruptcy filing and said, “Nils is going to call you and Sam is going to call the Gov.”
Federal agents have interviewed Nils Larsen, an executive vice president of Tribune Co. and a close associate of Tribune Chairman Sam Zell. Larsen was allegedly asked by the Blagojevich administration to help get Chicago Tribune editorial writers fired in exchange for the state’s assistance involving Wrigley Field.
Larsen and other executives have declined comment to the newspaper. No Chicago Tribune editorial writers were let go. A company spokesman has said neither Tribune Co. executives nor their advisors did anything inappropriate.