SEARS WARS: RYE STRIKES BACK

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By Adrian Morrow

Associate News Editor

Ryerson is fighting a lawsuit brought against the school by Sears Canada, and says the retailer misrepresented the numbers behind the suit.

In court documents dated November 7, Ryerson argues that Sears donated $6.4 million to the school, not the more than $10 million that the company claims it gave.

“None of the numbers you’ll see in [the original contract for the donation] correspond with the numbers they’ve come up with,” said Julia Hanigsberg, Ryerson’s general counsel.

The retailer is suing Ryerson because it claims that, in exchange for the money, the school agreed to name a building after them, which it didn’t. Sears is asking that Ryerson either its name on a building or pay them damages.

The money mostly came from a 1991 donation when Sears gave Ryerson part of the land where the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre currently stands. Ryerson sold the naming rights to the building to Vari and put a plaque with Sears’ name in the foyer.

Sears claims that this wasn’t enough to fulfill the original contract, which stipulated Ryerson recognize Sears’ contribution by associating the company’s name with a building sometime in the future.

“The intention was probably to leave it vague,” said Hanigsberg. “We’ve said to them from the beginning that we satisfied our side of the agreement. We’re fixed and firm on that.”

Ryerson’s statement of defence also says that Sears accepted the plaque “unconditionally” in 2004.

It’s not clear why they waited until last month to launch a suit.

“I don’t think there was any specific reason,” said Sears spokesman Vince Powers. “Sears didn’t see that plaque as a fulfillment of the agreement.”

He didn’t know why Sears and Ryerson came up with two different figures when calculating the size of the donation. He also didn’t know what process Sears used to crunch the numbers for its statement of claim.

Hanigsberg said the dispute would most likely be settled without going to court.

“Ultimately we think its in our best interest, and theirs, to settle this,” she said. “This is one of the costs of doing business.”

Last week, VP University Adam Kahan told the Eyeopener that Sears approved the plaque at the time it was presented.

He met with Brent Hollister, the company’s president, just before the building opened.

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