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Not Quite the Ticket to Success It Used to Be

Sarbanes-Oxley Ethics Law Deters Some From Buying Nationals Seats for Clients

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 11, 2005; Page E01

Nothing personal against the Washington Nationals, said Michael L. McDonald, a vice president of Fairchild Corp., which sells aircraft parts and sports and leisure apparel.

But the McLean company has no plans to buy Nationals season tickets to entertain current and prospective clients, as many other companies are doing.


Season tickets to Washington Nationals games are a client-relations expenditure that some companies are unwilling to make. (Eliana Aponte -- Reuters)

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"While several of the Fairchild executives, including myself, are personally interested in the Washington Nationals, we cannot conceivably rationalize the use of corporate assets for season tickets," McDonald said.

Nothing personal against the Nats, either, said Tara Stewart, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., one of the Washington region's largest employers.

"Wal-Mart does not buy season tickets," she wrote in an e-mail.

No doubt, the lower grandstand at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium will be packed with corporate executives wooing prized customers when the Nationals play their inaugural home game Thursday night. Rocketmaker Orbital Sciences Corp. will be there with its six season tickets; defense contractor Raytheon Co. has eight, each costing about $3,000.

But in this age of corporate accountability -- and in a town where Sarbanes-Oxley, the strict corporate accountability law that has given rise to new rules, might beat Nationals Manager Frank Robinson in a name-recognition contest -- companies are debating whether hot tickets and cold beer are the way to win over customers.

"Some of our [stations] buy seasons, but we try to strongly discourage this," said Scott R. Royster, chief financial officer of Lanham-based Radio One Inc., which owns or operates 69 stations, including eight in the Washington-Baltimore region. "We think it is a waste of shareholder resources."

Other companies strongly disagree. Fairfax-based defense contractor ManTech International Corp. has snapped up 10 Nationals season tickets, for example. Raytheon, a multibillion-dollar company that describes itself as "a world leader in state-of-the art systems and solutions to defend the free world," isn't shy about trumpeting the tickets to sporting events it has on hand.

On top of its eight Nationals tickets, the Massachusetts-based company has 12 Redskins seats, which are shared with employees, spokesman David J. Shea said. Raytheon has 5,000 employees in the Washington region.


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