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The Star-Ledger fights for sports authority data, finds mega kickbacks

britney spears

By Flickr user Luda Melnykova

After one of the longest fights over public records in New Jersey, Ted Sherman at The Star-Ledger finally got to see what the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority had been fighting to reveal: more than $3.3 million in never-disclosed givebacks. The authority runs New Jersey’s racetracks, the stadium where the Giants and Jets played, and the Izod Center arena, Ted says.

“We began looking at the sports authority three years ago because it was awash in red ink and we wanted to take a deeper look at its cash flow beyond its annual financial statements,” Ted says.

Under the state’s Open Public Records Act, the paper sought and received payroll data, audits and other records, but the authority refused to release entertainment contracts, saying doing so would reveal trade secrets and place them at a competitive disadvantage. Ted says getting the contracts took three years and cost about $500,000 in legal fees.

The irony?

“I looked nationwide to other public-owned and public-run arenas to get contracts for comparison,” he says. “In nearly every case, they released contracts from the same promoters for the same acts that were a state secret in New Jersey. That not only became part of the story, but also part of the lawsuit.”

Today’s Tip: Request financial documents to see how sports authorities fare in your area.

The contracts and financial data showed how much concerts generate in ticket sales and how the money is spent.  Ted and Peggy McClone write of a Britney Spears’ show:

“Spears’ Femme Fatale Tour left town having made $1.5 million for the evening, after stage and set-up expenses, and payment of state taxes.

The sports authority’s income? $170,215.

The figures help explain as never before why Izod has struggled financially for years, graphically showing the economics of the concert business, which leaves little on the table for the state and its taxpayers beyond concessions and parking once the big stars leave town.”

The information also provided insight into requests performers make in contract riders. That became a separate story that noted the “Foo Fighters are still upset over the fact that Chewbacca did not get a medal at the end of Star Wars,” Ted says.

 

About the Author

Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Rosland Gammon

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