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World Trade Center name sold for $10 three decades ago

World Trade Center name sold for $10 three decades ago
The iconic American World Trade Center name was sold in secret to a non-profit organization belonging to one of the original owner’s executives for $10 in 1986, with the former obliged to pay thousands of dollars every year just to keep the naming rights.

The original owner of the brand name is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but they covertly sold it to the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) for a laughable sum of money, New Jersey’s Record newspaper reports.
The sale was recently revealed by the newspaper, who obtained the contract through the Freedom of Information act.

The WTCA was started as a non-profit organization by one of the people on the Port Authority’s board. Guy Tozzoli, the former executive who died this year, had been making millions every year by leasing the name to hundreds of licensees – among them the Port Authority.

With the new One World Trade Center skyscraper scheduled to open next year, companies are all vying to cash in on the name. The Port Authority already pays $10,000 a year to use it, and would like to continue selling branded merchandise when the building opens up. To do this, however, it will need to dish out another half a million dollars every year: that is how much it would cost to provide the WTCA with their demands of their own office space inside the new structure.

The arrangement should not leave the Port Authority broke, as they are projected to earn $20 to $30 million every year from merchandise alone.

The news has caused a stir among the company’s top brass. Bill Baroni, the Port Authority’s Deputy Executive Director, was dismayed that the deal could have gone down at all. 

Speaking to the Record, he said “I am gravely concerned that a secret deal, years ago, sold the name of the World Trade Center for 10 bucks…and I’m going to look into the initial contract and look into where we are today with regard to this organization.” 

The final section of the spire sits on top of One World Trade Center on May 10, 2013 in New York after it was fully installed on the building's roof (AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary)

Back in the day, the Port Authority used to run the region’s airports, major bus and train terminals, as well as seaports. It was also often criticized for spoiling its executives with lavish benefits and arrangements. Tozzoli was himself a very accomplished businessman, who spearheaded the construction of the Twin Towers and built the WTC into what it is today. 

But according to tax records, the man could just as well have worked an hour a week and make over half a million dollars. That money often came from putting the WTC brand name on anything from pencils to postcards. Scott Richie, a WTCA representative speaking to the Record nevertheless defended the company’s reputation as a non-profit.

“The WTCA is a not-for-profit company,” he said. “It has not used the trademarks to generate wealth. It has used the trademarks for the collective benefit of its members, helping them develop facilities around the world that foster trade.” 

The Association leases the WTC name to clients in over 100 countries, charging them each $200,000 for the initial naming rights, then $10,000 as an annual membership fee. It still remains unclear if any laws or ethical rules were violated with the sale of the name. The Record could not reach the Port Authority’s former executives for comment.