Patriots, StubHub end legal battle
By Colman Herman and Bruce Mohl
The New England Patriots and the online ticket marketplace StubHub Inc. have ended their bitter and costly legal battle over ticket resales.
The two parties filed a stipulation of dismissal in Suffolk Superior Court on July 1, ending a bid by the football team to prohibit StubHub from offering fans an online marketplace where they could buy and resell Patriots tickets at whatever prices they want. The Patriots insist their tickets are revocable licenses that can only be bought and sold with the team’s permission.
“The settlement does not change in any way the Patriots’ policies prohibiting the resale of tickets to Patriots home games, or the Patriots’ ability to enforce those policies,” James said. Indeed, the Patriots are continuing their lawsuit against Steven and Carol McGrath of Bridgewater for allegedly reselling Patriots tickets on StubHub at inflated prices.
Pate of StubHub said: “The settlement will not change our business model. StubHub supports the independent marketplace for ticket sales.”
On StubHub’s website, the company is currently offering tickets to a November 8 Patriots game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium at prices far in excess of face value. For sideline seat tickets with a face value of $169, StubHub was offering tickets at prices ranging from a low of $442 to a high of $648.
One person familiar with the wrangling between the team and the San Francisco-based ticket marketplace owned by eBay called the settlement an acknowledgment of a legal stalemate. This person said both sides were spending an enormous amount of money on legal fees but making little headway. The person said he suspected Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner who filed the initial legal salvo in the case, decided it was too costly to continue.
Brockton attorney David Sorrenti, who represents the McGraths, said the case clearly did not turn out the way the Patriots had hoped. “The Patriots spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe more, on the case, but it looks like they didn’t get what they wanted,” he said, adding that he hoped he could also reach a settlement for his clients with the team.
The Patriots-StubHub case has attracted national attention. Most professional sports teams have jumped into bed with ticket resellers, and most states have done away with laws restricting ticket resales. Major League Baseball, for example, signed a partnership deal with StubHub, and the National Football League signed a similar deal with Ticketmaster.
The case against StubHub, filed just before Thanksgiving in 2006, was an attempt by the Patriots to rein in one of the nation’s biggest online venues for ticket resales. StubHub responded by countersuing, accusing the Patriots of trying to monopolize the resale of the team’s tickets.
Like the Patriots, Massachusetts is also an outlier on ticket resales. While most other states have relaxed or eliminated their laws against ticket resales, Massachusetts continues to cap ticket resales at $2 above face value plus certain business expenses. The law is rarely enforced and widely ignored, a fact that prompted Beacon Hill lawmakers in 2007 to push for legislation that would have allowed resales at any price. The legislation passed the House but then died when the Boston Globe reported that a group of ticket resellers in Massachusetts had hired a close friend of then-House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi to advise them.