Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hard Up Pacers Entertain Indy's Corporate Elite In Cancun

Indiana Pacers' owners Mel and Herb Simon have been publicly whining about how much their NBA franchise is losing. The Simons claim the team has lost $200 million since they've owned it, and that it has lost money 9 out of the past 10 years. The Simons are asking the CIB to pick up $15 million a year in costs to operate Conseco Fieldhouse, even though they pay no rent and get to keep all of the game and non-game event revenues, as well as advertising revenues, from the facility. Well, maybe the Pacers aren't hurting so much after all. Blogger Ruth Holladay has a very interesting account of a costly trip your Indiana Pacers team sponsored for about sixty of Indianapolis' elite recently:

"'Your Indiana Pacers' are pleading for monetary breaks from the city of Indianapolis, wanting to rewrite their contract for use of Conseco Fieldhouse. They contend it costs too much to maintain the facility.

"Why then did the Pacers just return from entertaining more than 60 people with a five-day excursion to an exclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico? The team's guests, along with their spouses, were corporate sponsors -- Indianapolis businesses that have supported the team financially over the years.

"Included were guests from Finish Line, WISH-TV, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Star, etc. The trip serves as a thank you with the hope that the sponsorships continue.

"The group was flown to Cancun, wined and dined at le Blanc Hotel and Spa, an oceanside resort that is all inclusive -- all the food and drink one can possibly consume at one hefty price. How exclusive? Each room sported its own hot tub. And no little airline liquor bottles in those rooms. Full liters -- at no extra charge. The trip included side excursions for every one in attendance.

"And to add icing to the trip, the women were given expensive jewelry and the men fancy sport watches. Special arrangements were made to watch the two West Coast Pacer games that were played during the trip.

"Of course, some guests took advantage of the Pacers generosity. The Star was issued four invitations. John Cherba, the paper's director of display (retail) advertising, and his wife took advantage of the free trip to invite personal friends along. Wouldn't want to share the spoils with just anybody now would you?"

Very interesting. Now you get the picture of why so many of Indianapolis' elites are so quick to support more tax subsidies for the billionaire sports team owners in this town. Shouldn't someone at the Star be reporting on this trip? Or is that another conflict of interest the newspaper's editors will just overlook? My invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.


Jon said...

Does anyone have a list of the attendees? It would be enlightening to know whose influence has been bought and paid for by the Simons.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Jon, I've asked Ruth to see if her source can divulge names of attendees.

Anonymous said...

Gary - here's the funny part: The le Blanc doesn't come close to several other Cancun all-inclusives.

Last month my company paid for over 60 employees to a Cancun resort that makes the le Blanc seem 2nd rate. Each employee could also bring one guest as well. More than 130 people in total.

And we weren't trying to bribe anyone or gain influence over officials. Just giving folks part of their annual reward for a job well done. And... the Simons probably gross 100's of times more annual income than my company.

So here's the wrap-up: Now we know that Simon bribes local officials with junkets. And the junkets aren't even high end. Trust me on this one. All-inclusives in Cancun are a dime a dozen. They picked a relatively cheap place, got a package deal for a large group, and they bought themselves millions of dollars by sending local officials from a fly-over city on the junket of a lifetime.

As nice as it seems to have unlimited top-shelf liquor in the room, it was a chintzy, 2nd rate, snake-oil con job to win over a group of folks who probably wouldn't know that their all-inclusive is dirt cheap in comparison to a weekend at Disney World. Just thinking about it makes me feel dirty.

But hey - if local officials are that cheap, why would the Simons pay more? I guess I can't blame them. They probably laugh about it when the returns roll in.

Gary R. Welsh said...

What does that say about the watches and jewelry they supposedly gave their guests. Cubic zirconias? Fake Rolexes?

Anonymous said...

Nope - probably not fakes. Just a sign that shiny, sparkly things can still be used to make people feel important. It kinda makes you feel sorry for them, in a backwards sorta way.

"Look at me - I used to be special. Now I'm VERY special"

FYI - I have no problem with a company who rewards sponsors, promoters, or other types of supporters and business partners. I even like a few shiny, sparkly things. Make mine the onyx face Movado with the diamond 12 - in platinum or white gold please. Nice but not stupid rediculous.

Where I have a problem is when the organization uses that forum in order to buy cheap media and political influence. Face it - 4 days at a 2nd rate joint in Cancun costs less than $2,000 per couple - including airfare.

But my biggest beef is that after funding this trip they turn around and tell us that they need millions of public dollars. They can't have it both ways. If you can afford to reward supporters and media with shiny, sparkly things and 2nd rate all-inclusives, you don't NEED extra money. You WANT it.

But then again, maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. 'Maybe' the 2nd rate activities of the Simons are signs that we should actually be feeling sorry for them and we should part with some of our earnings so that they can do things right the next time. Maybe a private chartered yacht for a couple of days, followed by a night or two at a seclude spot in St. Kitts - somewhere that's not defined by college kids guzzling tequila and margarita mix in a simultaneous pour while bent backwards over their chair. Or maybe the Conrad Maldives? I hear the boat ride to the island is great but some folks prefer the sea plane because they can get settled faster.

Yeah, maybe they do need more of our money. If the le Blanc is as good as it gets, these folks are hurting. Either that, or it's like I said earlier. They're sitting back for a good laugh afterwards because their pocket change made a few fly-over folks feel "exclusive". I'd vote for the latter.

M Theory said...

Was Shella on that junket? I would like to know who from Channel 8 went.