The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority agreed to start negotiations with AEG to take over management of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex from SMG.
That marks the first time since the Coliseum was turned over to private sector management of any kind that SMG was moved out for another organization.
SMG’s involvement with the Oakland Coliseum dates back to 1997, when the 1.1 million annual bond payment that went to run Coliseum Operations – and expertly ran by Bob Quintella and Robert DeCarlo, with George Vukasin as Chairman of The Coliseum – ran out. The City of Oakland and The County of Alameda could no longer afford to run the facility; SMG was selected.
After some fits and starts, SMG found its sea legs and managed the complex well. SMG is not a stadium developer, but has worked with developers. But what SMG has become, under Doug Thornton, is an excellent professional organization that works to deliver on its obligations. Moreover, I’ve never heard anyone question Doug’s ethics.
But today, SMG and Doug Thornton have lost out to a company that’s involved in a wrongful-death lawsuit against Michael Jackson, who’s founder has ties to ultra-right-wing organizations and ideologies, and has recently worked to talk to the Oakland Raiders about moving out of Oakland and to Los Angeles. And add to that, the Raiders matter is not an open part of the agreement between AEG and the Oakland Coliseum as of this writing. (Let’s hope that changes.)
What’s troubling is that AEG, and what used to be called Overstock, are both involved in business with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex. Overstock is now called “O.co” and has its name on the Coliseum, thus calling it O.co Coliseum – well, except that the Oakland Athletics don’t recognize the name when they play, thank goodness. The A’s call it: “Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum”.
Why? Well, aside from the fact that the crappy naming rights deal talks didn’t include the A’s, it’s just for a total of about $7 million. That’s right, it’s the same level of bad deal we had 10 years ago at the Coliseum, when it was called Network Associates Coliseum. So, we could not get a better deal 10 years later? Nuts.
But I digress.
At the time that deal was being crafted, Overstock was in court against the State of California. Why? Allegations of fraudulent pricing practices. And according to White Collar Fraud, “In February 2011, Google penalized Overstock.com for improperly gaming its search algorithm to boost its sear ch rankings.” No wonder it changed its name from Overstock to O.co.
You see where this is going. Why does the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum do business with organizations that have these kinds of track records? And where is Oakland’s Auditor on all of this?