Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A dying tournament rises from the ashes

Today, the philanthropically-venerable company 84-Lumber decided to not to renew its sponsorship for the 84 Lumber Classic at its company-owned resort Nemacolin Woodlands 70 miles south of Pittsburgh, in Farmington PA.
The timing was a double body-blow to the state of Pennsylvania because yesterday St Paul Travelers stepped up to bring new life to an old dog: The Hartford Tournament. Now the whole state of Pennsylvania will be without a PGA tour event next year.

No golf to watch from PA? Uh, it's worse than no Rolling Rock Beer in Latrobe (which, BTW, is on the auction-block).
PA's loss is a $78 million dollar annualized economic impact from The Classic. Also (BTW), since 2003 $4.3 million has been raised for more than 80 local charities.

Now all that economic and social benefit will be Hartford Connecticut's gain.

How does such a dramatic change of events happen? Start with political moxie, mix in a little corporate governance, and sprinkle in a little luck....and you have all the makings of how this happened:

Corporate Governance:
84 Lumber is a 50+ year old private company. They are in the process of primping themselves for (IMHO) a public offering. Early this year they announced a restructuring, in which they are closing 60+ underperforming locations (they sell ready-made construction products to professional contractors) and plan to add 125 more locations by 2009.
In the end, the quote by their spokesman summed up the pull-out: "We're not consumer-driven....(we) use the tournament to bring our customers in and entertain them. But you can do that at any PGA Tour event you want."

A Little Luck:
The Greater Hartford Open was destined for the scrap-heap. Thanks to the PGA's new schedule next year which will introduce the Fed Ex Cup (Golf's version of NASCAR). The Hartford which had been around since the early 50's was looking down the barrel of becoming a PGA's fall series event, or worst yet, a Champions Tour event.
Enter St Pauls Insurance (which has a SIGNIFICANT presence in Hartford). They decided to become the title sponsor yesterday to The Hartford.
Lo and behold if 84 Lumber doesn't force the cancellation of PA's only tournament, but The Hartford is awarded to fill the void as part of the FedEx Cup (it will be played June 21-24 next year at the TPC River Highlands) week after the US Open! The marketing dept. over at St Paul is doing Hail Mary's as we speak. :-)

Political Moxie:
CT officials were quoted as saying: "Our plan at the state of Connecticut is to take advantage of this tournament to paint the right picture for the state, to entice businesses to not only step up and participate in this tournament, but to be here in this community," said James Abromaitis, the state's economic development commissioner."

PA officials were quoted as saying nothing, as they apparently have a anti-economic development commissioner.

I'm sure that there was a ton of behind-the-scenes negotiating goings-on, of which I am not privy to, but anytime I see the timing of something like this and politicians involved....well....let's just say that Abramoff-desciples most-likely were involved.

Thanks for reading. Keep it in the short-grass.


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