Wrigley Field and an International Story of Litigation with William Wrigley III

Bare with me as this story requires an introduction.

Wrigley Rooftops beyond left field at Wrigley FieldRecently the ownership of the Chicago Cubs decided they would begin a $575 million renovation project of the famed Wrigley Field in Chicago. The renovation might well destroy two historic features of the park. First, the outfield bleachers might be demolished. They sit atop a vine-covered brick wall that would, on occasion, swallow up a ball hit into the tangle. Second, the renovations may block the views of adjacent rooftop businesses, which have agreements in place for revenue sharing. Of course a lawsuit is coming out of the former.

All this reminded me of a certain lawyer’s interactions with the park’s namesake family:

Several years ago the lawyer was at his office in Birmingham when he received a phone call from a person whom he did not know. After a brief discussion, he was engaged by phone and was asked to name a retainer fee which he did. The fee was received within a few days and legal services were beginning to be performed.

Over the next many months, the lawyer was entertained at the Wrigley Building in Chicago, was presented with several Chicago Cubs items, was flown on the Wrigley jet, visited Port au Prince in Haiti, tracked around several unusual spots in the United States and appeared in court in Wisconsin.

It turned out that the caller was a lawyer from a large firm in Chicago where one of the partners had heard the Alabama lawyer making a presentation at a national convention. When this was reported to William Wrigley III, the decision was made to hire the Birmingham lawyer.

Early on, the lawyer discovered that the key witness was no longer in the US, but had moved to Haiti. All the details of how this information was obtained and how the witness in Port au Prince was contacted is beyond the scope of this article, but ultimately, an investigator for the Wininger Law Firm was dispatched to Port au Prince and did locate the witness in question. After, the lawyer flew to Miami and then to Haiti where he was met going through customs by a white male inside the airport waving the lawyer toward the airport door. While this was occurring, the lawyer indicated that he had not yet cleared customs, but the man inside was persistent and as the lawyer walked up toward the door which was unguarded, the man from inside said, “Come on in. I’ve got you covered.”

The lawyer was very skeptical and looked around to make sure he was not about to be shot or otherwise arrested or detained. As it turned out, the witness had connections which had cleared the lawyer through Haitian customs without any formality. Later it was joke that he could have had gold bars or cocaine or other illegal substances in his briefcase because no one ever checked anything. After a pleasant afternoon on a yacht located in the harbor where steaks were prepared, the men got down to business and the witness provided the information that the lawyer had come for.

During the representation, when the lawyer needed to be in Chicago, the Wrigley plane would often appear at the Birmingham airport to pick him up. On one occasion, he only needed to go to Montgomery, but he needed to be there quickly, so the plane picked him up in Birmingham, achieved its maximum height within about 10 or 12 minutes and headed down into Montgomery. Remember that is only about an hour and a half drive from Birmingham to Montgomery. The entire flight must have taken 15 minutes perhaps.

Also during these months, a meeting was held at the Wrigley Mansion at Lake Geneva, WI. The lawyer was shown around after dinner and learned that Mr. Phillip K. Wrigley, the father of client Bill Wrigley, had in effect, a white glove rule about his work area. That is to say that it was reported that Mr. Wrigley would don white gloves and go down and touch his screwdrivers, hammers, etc. and if he got grease on them, would chastise the supervisor of that area.

Ultimately, the litigation proceeded in Lake Geneva and was a total victory. The William Wrigley Company had a customer for life and Bill Wrigley had a friend until his death in 1999.