Newport, John Paul. 2009. "Golf Journal: Deals Amid the Distress." Wall Street Journal (20 February).
Since October, when American International Group was put in the stocks for staging a luxurious $400,000 weeklong retreat at a resort in California, one week after receiving $85 billion in federal bailout funds, corporations have been slithering under rocks when it comes to golf-related activities. Goldman Sachs, for example, last week canceled its big annual hedge-fund conference, scheduled for March, at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle resort in Miami. A company spokesman cited "the current environment." The Ritz-Carlton resort at Half Moon Bay, Calif., said more than 30 business groups have canceled retreats there since last fall, at a loss of more than $2 million in revenue. Wells Fargo took out a full-page ad in several newspapers last weekend to defend its practice of rewarding employees with outings -- it called such events "the heart of our culture because our product is service" -- but nevertheless canceled all of its major employee-recognition events for 2009.
The author concludes that the downturn offers golfers good deals.
Newport, John Paul. 2009. "Golf Journal: No Entertaining, Please -- It's Golf." Wall Street Journal (28 February).
The TMZ posting on Tuesday, concerning the title sponsorship of last week's Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles, read to me like a parody in the Onion of a local news outlet pouncing on a supposed outrage. "We're told Northern Trust paid millions to sponsor the PGA event which ended Sunday, but what happened off the golf course is even more shocking," TMZ said.
Northern Trust wasn't just treating clients to Diet Cokes while they walked around the course. It staged "lavish parties," "a fancy dinner" and concerts for clients "with famous singers" such as Sheryl Crow and Earth, Wind and Fire. TMZ's reporters spotted courtesy cars (standard at PGA Tour events) driving onto and off the Riviera property with people inside. Guests were reported to have left various functions with goodie bags.
Northern Trust accepted $1.6 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, despite record profits of $795 million and a solid balance sheet. The bank, in a letter to shareholders this week, said it didn't seek the funds but accepted them to accommodate "the government's goal of gaining the participation of all major banks in the United States".
Understandably spooked, Morgan Stanley, which received $10 billion in TARP funds, quickly announced that while it would continue to sponsor the Memorial tournament in June, it would not entertain clients there. Wells Fargo, a $25 billion TARP fundee which took over sponsorship of a PGA Tour event at the end of April when it acquired Wachovia, said it would seriously cut back spending at that event.
Golf, with its traditional fat-cat image, is an easy target for abuse ...
But the author defends such activities as job-creating.