Those pesky Chamber of Commerce folks…

December 20, 2007

images6.jpegBack when I was a local business reporter, avoiding Chamber of Commerce events was akin to trying to avoid the local loan shark: you could get away with it once, maybe twice. But sooner or later it would catch up with you. I thought about this recently after catching an interesting disclosure in the proxy that National Fuel Partners (NFP) filed earlier this week:

The Company offers a limited number of perquisites to our executive officers. The basis for offering these perquisites is to enhance the Company’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified persons and also to assist the officer in conducting business on behalf of the Company. For certain items, the perquisite is incidental to other business-related use. For example, the Company shares a stadium suite with another local utility company for the local professional football team and an arena suite with a local law firm for the local professional hockey team. The Company also has some season tickets for seats outside the suites. The Company made these investments as a result of specific drives by the Buffalo, New York business community to support the retention of these professional athletic teams in the Buffalo area. These suites are primarily used for Company business. On the occasions when the suites are not used for Company business, the executive officers as well as other employees are permitted personal use.

Beyond the Chamber (or some similar business group) pressuring NFP to buy tickets to Buffalo Sabres games, what’s interesting here is that this is a new disclosure for the company. There’s no reference to suites or hockey tickets in earlier filings. So you have to wonder if the proxy fight that’s currently underway led to the increased disclosure. Judging by the press release that hedge fund New Mountain Vantage Advisors filed yesterday, those hockey seats may be just the beginning.

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Normally at this time of year, I start thinking about the dumbest footnote of the year. Last year, it was Aaron’s Rent (RNT) disclosure that it had spent nearly $1 million teaching two kids of a top executive how to be better race car drivers. This year, I’m going to let my readers decide. There’s a totally unscientific poll in the right hand column of the site, or, if you’re reading this via RSS or email, you can access the poll here.

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