Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Wells Fargo weighs options after signage ruling

Brian Johnson//June 24, 2016

Wells Fargo weighs options after signage ruling

Brian Johnson//June 24, 2016

In the branding battle of the banks in downtown Minneapolis, the first round goes to U.S. Bank and the Minnesota Vikings.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled Thursday that U.S. Bank rival Wells Fargo has 30 days to remove illuminated signage atop its two 17-story office towers near the new U.S. Bank Stadium.

Wells Fargo said in a statement that it’s “disappointed in the court’s ruling, yet we remain very proud of our $300 million community investment in the historic East Town neighborhood. We are considering options at this time.”

The Minnesota Vikings argued in a lawsuit filed last December that the signs will detract from or “photo bomb” its new $1.11 billion football stadium and violate a signage agreement between the team and Wells Fargo.

In his ruling, the judge said that the parties’ signage agreement “unambiguously prohibits the two mounted and illuminated signs currently installed on the roofs of the Wells Fargo towers.”

Frank also ruled that Wells Fargo must “meet with and confer” with the team before installing any future roof-top signs, and granted the team’s claim for attorneys’ fees and costs.

But he scolded both parties for their “inability to resolve this dispute short of a court order.”

Each side “proclaims its contributions and commitment to the community, yet neither seems to comprehend the possibility that spending vast time and resources on this litigation might disservice the public interest,” the judge wrote.

In a statement, the Vikings said they are “pleased with the court’s ruling,” including the order that “directs Wells Fargo not to install any mounted or illuminated rooftop signage in the future. We appreciate Judge Frank’s deliberate and thoughtful review of our request and his decision to uphold the written agreement.”

Last June, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank and the Vikings agreed on a 20-year deal for exclusive naming rights of the football stadium, which is now substantially complete. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The Vikings claimed in the lawsuit that they made a “major concession” to allow any rooftop signs at all on the office towers, which house about 5,000 Wells Fargo employees. The new 1.1-million-square-foot campus was completed earlier this year.

Wells Fargo argued that the signage agreement was “a general guideline, rather than a strict rule,” but Frank wrote that the court “is not convinced that the parties intended any additional flexibility with regard to sign parameters.”

Frank also wrote that the agreement negotiated between the team and Wells Fargo allows “flat-painted” rooftop signs, but “unambiguously prohibits the rooftop signs that Wells Fargo has installed on the Wells Fargo towers.”

The signs were installed starting in April 2015 at a cost of about $490,000. The signage is designed to create a “halo effect” around the illuminated letters, according to court documents.

Each sign includes yellow letters, outlined in black, that are each about 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide and affixed to steel posts and mounted on a 56-foot by 56-foot red backdrop on the roof.

Such Wells Fargo signs would stand out as broadcasters’ blimps and/or helicopters fly over the area on game days, distracting from the U.S. Bank branding on the stadium.

Top News

See All Top News

Legal calendar

Click here to see upcoming Minnesota events

Expert Testimony

See All Expert Testimony