ALBANY – New York is expanding its probe nationwide into the 1980s sale of the rights to the World Trade Center name to a nonprofit for $10, resulting in millions of dollars in fees for use of the name in 28 states, according to an official familiar with the investigation.
The official told the Associated Press that letters seeking information on the deals were due to arrive Monday at 45 World Trade Center complexes, from Alaska to Florida. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the probe and talked on the condition of anonymity.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is investigating a 1986 deal in which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sold the naming rights to one of its outgoing executives for use by a nonprofit organization called The World Trade Centers Association. The Port Authority owns the World Trade Center site but is among hundreds of entities worldwide that pay to use the World Trade Center name.
“The attorney general is looking to find out how the WTCA got such a sweetheart deal on the naming rights, how much revenue the WTCA makes selling the name and how that price is set,” the official said.
A spokesman for the WTCA said the organization has “a long history of creating value” and acquired the naming rights legally.
“The WTCA lawfully obtained all rights to the World Trade Center trademark in 1986 in an agreement reached between the WTCA and the Port Authority,” spokesman Eric Dahl said.
“This agreement has been honored by both parties for nearly three decades with the knowledge and participation of the governing bodies of both organizations and was re-approved by the Port Authority as recently as 2006.”
The Record newspaper reported in September that the Port Authority sold the naming rights to Guy Tozzoli in his role as head of the nonprofit WTCA. Tozzoli died in February.
A letter obtained by the AP sets an Oct. 25 deadline for responses to the World Trade Centers in cities including Houston, New Orleans, Detroit and Sacramento, Calif.
The letters seek the date in which each entity entered into an agreement with the World Trade Centers Association, the end date of any agreement, and the amount paid to the association, and names of principals involved and the license agreements.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo referred the case to Schneiderman on Sept. 17.
“Using the millions of dollars in annual revenue from licensing fees paid by companies around the globe for the use of the World Trade Center brand, Mr. Tozzoli received exorbitant annual compensation,” Cuomo said.