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Bay Area CEOs bolster Olympic bid

By Steve Ginsberg, San Francisco Business Times

October 27, 2002 -- The Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee has signed a team of high-powered CEOs to chair its corporate council, a move that could translate into a well-financed Olympic bid.

Topping the lineup are Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.; Charles Schwab, CEO of Charles Schwab Corp.; Carl Pascarella, president of Visa USA; and Craig Sullivan, president and CEO of Clorox Co. The four executives will serve as co-chairs of the council.

Also agreeing to serve are Tony Ridder, CEO of publisher Knight Ridder and Roger Haughton, CEO of mortgage-insurer PMI Group Inc.

Ridder has pledged $1 million to BASOC's potential international campaign to secure the 2012 Games, while Haughton has pledged $500,000. The half-million dollars would be used to partially finance the building of an Olympic Village at Moffett Field in Mountain View, according to BASOCs Executive Director Anne Cribbs.

Said Haughton, "Businesses should give back to their communities and our contribution to the BASOC is one way that we are doing that."

BASOC's growing roster includes its board, which has more than 100 sports, community and business leaders. Its corporate council represents another group of roughly 100 companies that want to bring the Games to the Bay Area.

Co-chairs of the corporate council are not required to make a financial commitment, and it's to unclear what their level of support will be other than Ridder's and Haughton's. BASOC organizers have also approached Cisco Systems' John Chambers and Yahoo's Jerry Yang to serve. The corporate council will include former Secretary of State George Schultz, who will serve as honorary chairman.

BASOC's CEO recruitment drive is an attempt to marshal last-minute support to convince the United States Olympic Committee to designate San Francisco over New York on Nov. 2 as its host city for the 2012 Summer Olympiad.

The CEOs would also be supporters if BASOC gets to the next round, competing for the International Olympic Committee's host-city designee, which will be named in 2005.

BASOC will need between $10 million and $15 million in new funding to compete for the IOC's bid, and the organization is out raising money already. The IOC wants to be assured that the Bay Area will have the financial muscle to pull off the games. At this point, no money has been put aside to stage the Olympics.

"Anne Cribbs has done a good job explaining to Olympic officials that here in the Bay Area we don't raise money 10 years ahead of an event," said Tony Diamantidis, chairman of the Athens Environmental Foundation and owner of an Emeryville software company Chemical Safety Corp. "By putting these high-level CEO names into the mix now, it sends a signal that the money will come later."

High tech on sidelines

The differences between New York and San Francisco's bids are many, but among the most glaring has been corporate support.

New York has been able to raise more than $12 million, while BASOC has scraped up only $4 million. New York's large financial institutions have been generous supporters, while the Bay Area's high-tech giants have been less enthusiastic not surprising considering the industry's stock and revenue slump.

At least six New York companies have contributed more than $500,000, including AOL Time Warner, Merrill Lynch and JP MorganChase. Real estate developer Lew Rudin's family has also spent over $500,000.

Meanwhile, BASOC's biggest supporters have been Catholic Healthcare West and Providian Financial, which have committed $500,000 each over two years.

Hewlett-Packard, Cadence Design Systems and PeopleSoft have been among the few tech companies to jump on BASOC's bandwagon as founding contributors. Cadence has invested the heaviest so far, with a two-year commitment of $200,000. H-P and PeopleSoft signed on for $100,000 over two years. With the formal naming of Hewlett-Packard CEO Fiorina to the corporate council expected on Monday, Oct. 28, high tech's presence will increase and at least yield the perception that Silicon Valley is on BASOC's team.

"We got a late start and much of our bid was done with grass-roots support," said Cribbs. "Our corporate council co-chairs now represent the technology companies in the region and San Francisco. We want to show the USOC that Northern California's business community is supportive and wants to work on the international bid. In the international phase, corporate brand recognition and support from the technology leaders will be a real advantage for us, and we want those relationships with these companies."

It will be up to each of the CEOs to determine what their level of involvement will be. There is no financial commitment of personal or corporate contributions, Cribbs said. There are no limits on the number of executives to serve on the corporate council, and more are likely to surface should San Francisco triumph over New York on Nov. 2 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Pascarella's involvement is key because Visa is a major sponsor of the International Olympic Committee and he could have weight in the Olympic bid process that has become more transparent after the Salt Lake City scandals. Pascarella's endorsement of BASOC's effort will send a message to IOC members that big business backs the effort.

Sullivan's participation is important because Clorox' East Bay roots give balance to BASOC's CEO lineup, sources inside BASOC said. A Charles Schwab spokesman said Schwab is getting involved because winning the Olympics would be good for the Bay Area economy.

At PMI, Haughton's interest is related to business, but it's also personal.

"I have been very involved in coaching, particularly with sports teams that my children have participated on," he said. "The coach of a youth sports team is able to build character and teach the young players the benefits of teamwork. These qualities are the types of values that we seek in people we hire in our business. The key role organized athletics plays in instilling these values in the young people who will be our country's future work force, is a compelling reason for my involvement and my company's in this effort.

Steve Ginsberg covers sports business for the San Francisco Business Times.