Business makes for some strange bedfellows, as is the case of Chicago businessman Andrew Berlin: a staunch White Sox fan who is transforming his South Bend Cubs (Low Class A; Midwest League) team into a mirror of the MLB parent.
Berlin is owner and CEO of Berlin Packaging LLC, a major shipping-materials corporation in Chicago. A success in the business world, Berlin has also been a success as owner of the former Silver Hawks, as he’s transformed the South Bend franchise from a sleepy Midwest League outpost to one poised for success. He’s successfully lobbied the city into a makeover of Four Winds Field (work is going on at this time for 2015 field upgrades), putting some $8 million of his own money into ballpark upgrades, and he’s certainly made waves in South Bend with a four-year deal as a Chicago Cubs affiliate. Snaring the Cubs affiliation from the Kane County Cougars was an upset, and key to the deal was rebranding the Silver Hawks as the South Bend Cubs, complete with a new logo, uniforms and branding.
There is a certain irony here: Berlin is a staunch White Sox fan, an minority investor in Chisox Corp.
Just outside the elevator, a Chicago White Sox logo greets all lobby visitors to the corporate office of the nearly $800 million container and closure company. To the right: a glass-encased American flag mural made of 260 baseballs, with one in the lower right corner signed by former Sox outfielder and 1983 Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle.
Turn a couple of corners and there’s a framed Jermaine Dye White Sox jersey just before you reach Mr. Berlin’s personal office — a workspace engulfed in Sox memorabilia, including a bench made of baseball bats, also a gift from Mr. Kittle.
You can’t blame the 54-year-old limited partner of the White Sox franchise for his passion. But he now has a big stake on the north side of town, too.
There is always a risk for a minor-league team to adopt the names and colors of a MLB parent: there’s little chance to carve out a unique identity, and if you lose the affiliation down the road, you’ll need to go through another rebranding. Now, there’s no doubt the Silver Hawks name was ready to be retired. But Berlin made an awfully large bet on the Cubs brand carrying a lot of weight in South Bend — and we’ll be discussing a year from now whether it was a brilliant move or merely a lateral shuffle.
Image courtesy South Bend Cubs.