Rights to ‘World Trade Center’ name were sold for $10
The public agency that owned the World Trade Center sold its naming rights to a nonprofit more than two decades ago for $10. 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.
The Hackensack Record
For more than four decades, the World Trade Center — whether standing majestically over Lower Manhattan, lying in the ruins of a terrorist attack or awaiting resurrection in a new form — has been one of the world’s greatest public landmarks.
But in a quiet deal nearly 30 years ago, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sold off the rights to the buildings’ name to a nonprofit organization established by one of its executives.
The price was $10.
The former executive, Guy Tozzoli, who died this year, earned millions primarily by licensing the name through the group, the World Trade Centers Association. The Port Authority is among the hundreds of licensees around the world paying thousands of dollars each year for the privilege of using the words “World Trade Center.”
Now, with the Port Authority hoping to sell branded souvenirs and merchandise next year after the new One World Trade Center skyscraper opens, the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) is requesting free office space worth more than $500,000 a year in exchange for use of the trademark.
“I am gravely concerned that a secret deal, years ago, sold the name of the World Trade Center for 10 bucks,” said the Port Authority’s deputy executive director, Bill Baroni. “And I’m going to look into the initial contract and look into where we are today with regard to this organization.”
The Port Authority runs the region’s airports, major bus terminals, PATH train system, seaports.
The sale of the trademark turned out to be perhaps the biggest financial benefit of Tozzoli’s long career, during which he oversaw construction of the twin towers. In 2011, his last year as president of the nonprofit, according to WTCA tax filings, Tozzoli received $626,000 for working an average of one hour per week.
A World Trade Centers Association representative said the organization was not set up to make money but rather to pursue laudable goals. A search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows the association has trademarked the name on a host of products including greeting cards, pens and binoculars.
“The WTCA is a not-for-profit company,” said its general counsel, Scott Richie. “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 spat is intensifying as the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks approaches — a tragedy that the nonprofit groups says in a promotional video on its website has raised awareness of the World Trade Center brand.
The WTCA, which has its trademarks in more than 100 countries, charges an initial $200,000 for use of the name on a building, plus $10,000 in annual membership fees. The Port Authority, owner of the nearly completed skyscraper called One World Trade Center, pays the $10,000 fee, records show. Silverstein Properties, the firm that is building three other towers on the site that also use the name, has an undisclosed agreement with the association, Richie said.
Each year, more than 320 members, public and private, also pay. In 2011, the company’s revenue was $6.9 million.
During his career, Tozzoli was credited for choosing the architect of the twin towers, Minoru Yamasaki, for helping to conceive of the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the north tower, and for coming up with the idea to use construction fill from the twin towers to extend lower Manhattan, creating what is now Battery Park City.
But when he retired from the Port Authority in 1987, Tozzoli carried on his most enduring mission, as full-time president of the WTCA. A contract dated months earlier, on Feb. 18, 1986, gave his WTCA the rights to five “World Trade Center” trademarks, previously registered by the Port Authority in New York State, for $10.
The contract was signed by the agency’s secretary at the time, Doris Landre, although it is unclear who else knew about and authorized the deal.
Along with the trademarks, the Port Authority also provided the group with 9,000 square feet of free office space on the 77th floor of the north tower.
Tozzoli ran the private organization for the next 24 years, and over that time, the trademark became a real-estate marketing tool. Today, the association advertises on its website that the World Trade Center name can bring landlords higher rents and occupancy rates, citing studies it has commissioned. And the 9/11 attacks have made the brand more recognizable around the world, a promotional video on its website says.
The negotiations over use of the name on merchandise represent an expansion of Tozzoli’s original idea: promoting peace and prosperity through trade centers.
In return for allowing the Port Authority to sell merchandise that carries the organization’s inherited trademarks — including “World Trade Center” and “WTC” — the association has requested about 9,000 square feet of rent-free office space in one of the new gleaming towers the Port Authority is financing, documents obtained by The Record show. At the going rate of $65 per square foot, that’s worth about $585,000 a year. The Port Authority estimates merchandise sales could bring the agency $23 million to $28 million annually.