NY probes sale of "World Trade Center" naming rights for $10

New York is expanding its probe nationwide into the 1980s sale of the rights to the name "World Trade Center" to a nonprofit for $10

One World Trade Center stands high above its peers in this webcam shot from September, 2013.

ALBANY, New York (WVLT/CBS) -- New York is expanding its probe nationwide into the 1980s sale of the rights to the name "World Trade Center" 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 should 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 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.

Last month, Scott Raab, writer-at-large for Esquire, told "CBS This Morning" that no one has jurisdiction over the Port Authority, calling it a supra-governmental agency.

"Think of it as the Vatican," Raab said. "It's 16 acres of downtown New York, lower Manhattan, it's owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, it is their jurisdiction."

The Record newspaper reported in September that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 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 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.


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