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A Hundred+ Million Dollar No Bid Contract Extension

Conflict of Interest - Real or Apparent?


From the Daily:

The University athletics department has agreed to a 15-year, $114 million contract extension with marketing firm Learfield Sports that gives the company exclusive rights to sell remaining signs and corporate sponsorships at TCF Bank Stadium.

The deal, approved by the Board of Regents on Friday, also acts as a continuation of other non-TCF Bank stadium-related rights that were set to expire in 2013.

Because the deal extends the current contract, the University didn't go through a bidding process, which initially raised potential red flags for University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter.

A third-party firm, Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, reviewed the contract at Pfutzenreuter's request to ensure the University was getting a fair shake, he said.

"I'm very comfortable with the contract," Pfutzenreuter said.

Although there was no bidding process, Learfield Sports President Greg Brown said other companies had a chance to make their cases in 2006 when the University got approval to build the stadium.

In addition to the business-side benefits of the deal, Brown said one of the most overlooked parts of the contract is the "opportunity to continue working with the people."

"We're really excited about the leadership of the program," he said.

Associate Athletics Director Tom Wistrcill, one of the University's lead negotiators in the contract process, said Learfield Sports' performance in its other marketing duties for the University made it an easy choice.

"We didn't really explore those other opportunities," Wistrcill said of the other three companies besides Learfield Sports interested two or three years ago.

Wistrcill worked at Badgers Sports Properties, a partner of Learfield Sports, before coming to the University, but said that connection had little impact on the deal.

"I'm very familiar with the people at Learfield, and that's the only impact it had," he said.

Athletics officials have addressed the potential conflict of interest before, and Pfutzenreuter wasn't worried about Wistrcill's connection during contract negotiations.

Now let me think about this one more time. A long-term contract for over a hundred million dollars with no competitive bidding... Really?

You paid yet another company, to tell you that the contract was OK? And who exactly were they and what kind of answer were you expecting from them? Wouldn't it have made more sense to put this out on competitive bid?

And the winner was Learfield, for whom one of the lead negotiators for the U used to work...

Sorry, Pfutz, doesn't pass the smell test.

Bob, Tom (especially Tom who is a lawyer): This OK with you? Ah, I see, Pfutz is the money.

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