…in cities like Cleveland, Seattle and Milwaukee writes the Wall Street Journal Online’s Russell Adams. Though Tim Cook claims that he’s “appalled that the Red Sox would use mere granite for countertops, everyone knows granite is the poor man’s marble.”
The Milwaukee Brewers eliminated five of their 69 suites this off-season to make room for a lower-priced, 9,000-square-foot upscale party area that will be ready for opening day. The Chicago White Sox, one season removed from a World Series title, recently gutted 10 of their 103 suites to build a new press box. Other teams are hoping they can hold onto some of their suite customers by showering them with perks ranging from cooking classes to free suite renovations. The Detroit Pistons have begun giving some suite holders a $50,000 food credit and a $20,000 credit to buy tickets to concerts and other events held at their arena.
For other companies that are cutting back on suites, different factors are in play. One is a 2004 tax provision that requires executives to pay taxes on business expenses (like entertaining clients in a skybox) that aren’t a formal part of their compensation. More broadly in the post-Enron, Sarbanes-Oxley landscape, executives are skittish about accepting both in-house freebies and outside gifts that could be construed as a conflict of interest. In Washington, Congress has already been tightening its rules on gifts such as access to skyboxes.
Jack Borkey Sr., the CEO of Cleveland’s Pepco, says he won’t miss his suites much. His suite for Cleveland Browns games cost $600 per person per game, which comes to about $10,000 per game. “You’re not really getting your money’s worth and you get the same thing done,” he says. “Plus, the team stinks.”