WOODLAND PARK, N.J. (AP) — The public agency that owned the World Trade Center sold its naming rights to a nonprofit more than two decades ago for $10 and now pays thousands of dollars a year to use the name, according to a published report.
The Record newspaper of New Jersey reports that a contract shows the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sold the rights to the World Trade Centers Association in 1986. The newspaper obtained the contract through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The newspaper reported Sunday that the Port Authority pays $10,000 a year to use the words “World Trade Center,” including on merchandise it plans to sell in the new World Trade Center currently under construction. Those sales could bring the Port Authority an estimated $23 million to $28 million annually.
In exchange for the Port Authority’s use of the trademark, the WTCA is requesting free office space at the new World Trade Center site worth an estimated $585,000 per year, according to documents obtained by the newspaper.
Current Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni said he was troubled by the revelations.
“I am gravely concerned that a secret deal, years ago, sold the name of the World Trade Center for 10 bucks,” Baroni told the newspaper. “And I’m going to look into the initial contract and look into where we are today with regard to this organization.”
Baroni did not immediately return a request for comment from The Associated Press.
The WTCA was headed by Guy Tozzoli, a former Port Authority executive who, among other accomplishments, oversaw the construction of the original Twin Towers. According to tax records reviewed by The Record, he earned combined compensation of $1.7 million from 2009 to 2011, in addition to his $113,000 annual public pension. Tozzoli died this year.
The WTCA was formed to foster international trade and offer support and contacts for its members in their local regions. It has trademarks in more than 100 countries and charges an initial $200,000 fee for the use of the name on a building plus the $10,000 annual membership fee, according to The Record. It has more than 300 members and in 2011 reported revenues of $6.9 million.
The 1986 contract — signed months before Tozzoli retired from the Port Authority — gave the WTCA rights to five World Trade Center trademarks, previously registered with New York state by the Port Authority, for $10. It was not immediately clear if the agreement violated any laws or ethics rules.
Stephen Berger, the Port Authority’s executive director at the time, could not be reached for comment by the newspaper. A message left by the AP at Odyssey Investment Partners, the money management company Berger chairs, was not immediately returned Sunday.