Federal Indictment Adds Tabloid Twist to Rooftop Saga

I know that many of you are sick and tired of hearing about the squabbles between the Cubs and their nosy neighbors across the street, but I continue to maintain a perverse fascination with the whole mess. The only thing that could make this melodrama any better for me is having Maury Povich presiding over it in place of U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Kendall.

You can imagine my giddiness then when I saw the report from Danny Ecker of Crain’s that Skybox on Sheffield owner Marc Hamid — one of those who is currently suing to Cubs to stop construction of signs in right field — had been arrested on federal fraud charges stemming from improprieties in his reporting of income from that rooftop.

Marc Hamid, an owner of the Skybox on Sheffield across from Wrigley Field, allegedly submitted false annual royalty payments to the team that underreported its attendance figures between 2008 and 2011, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Hamid also underreported gross revenue for the rooftop by more than $1.5 million, the government alleges.

Federal prosecutors also allege that Hamid, a Chicago lawyer, submitted false sales and amusement tax returns for Skybox and that he diverted rooftop revenue to his ticket businesses, JustGreatTickets.com and Just Great Seats, to conceal it.

Those revenues allegedly were used to pay Hamid’s personal expenses as well as Skybox’s business expenses, according to the indictment.

Hamid was charged with four counts of mail fraud, with an arraignment date still to be determined.

I’m interested to see how others view this, but for me it sure takes a lot of the shine off the whole struggling-small-business-owner-vs.-billion-dollar-corporation angle. I mean, Hamid is suing the Cubs over future potential losses when he’s been underpaying them and laundering profits from his business; not the best way to win a lawsuit.

But according to the indictment (full text below), this all reportedly took place 4-7 years ago. Why then is it just coming out now, on the verge of a decision from the judge hearing the case of the rooftops and the Cubs? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs have been slow-playing this like a monster hand late in a high-stakes poker game.

Then again, it could be nothing more than a total coincidence, like running into former college classmates while sightseeing in Rome (which did happen to me). But I like the image of Mike McDermott taking Teddy KGB down so much better.

It’s no secret that the rooftops haven’t been the most financially solvent group, collectively speaking, over the past few years. Then you add in the report that they stand to lose up to $400,000 in ticket sales due to the new signage, and you’ve got a few desperate owners trying to do whatever they can to hold onto their stake, even if that means playing dirty.

I’m not sure whatever came of it, but I’d heard from a credible source that Hamid may have been interested in selling his business as recently as last summer. Given the Cubs’ recent purchases, one would think they’d have been in line to snatch Skybox on Sheffield up. Maybe the numbers never fit and maybe pride got in the way.

Whatever the reason, nothing came to fruition and now Hamid is really having to sound an SoS. I’ve got zero knowledge when it comes to matters of law or commercial real estate, but it seems to me that these recent developments would give the Cubs a lot more leverage when it comes to winning their case and perhaps expanding their own rooftop empire.

In for a penny, in for a pound, right? In poker terms, the Cubs are already pot-committed at this point, so what’s another $5-10 million or so to make this whole issue just go away. They can forgive the under-reported revenues, take over ownership of SoS, and give Hamid the liquidity to settle up any potential back taxes and penalties.

Then Maury can look to Tom Ricketts and say, “You ARE the father!” Is it April 5th yet?


So, regarding my theory that Hamid might get some help in this matter…

Make sure you get the license plate of that bus, chief.

Hamid Indictment by dannyecker_crain

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