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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Manny Pacquiao's $20,000 plane ride

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International Sports Examiner | Marv Dumon

When I worked in investment banking, we tried to "sell a company" (i.e., partner the client) to a northern-based private equity firm that owned several industrial manufacturing facilities around the U.S.

Given the client's products, operations, markets, and geographic location, it was a perfect fit. Like Pavlov's dogs, we salivated at the fees. The client was seeing green hundred dollar bills in their sleep.

Deal-making - life and humanity - is not always business school science. It is art. The private equity firm was founded (and owned) by a billionaire family - the partner and I spoke to the principal on telephone conference, and his Managing Directors were steaming. They had offered close to $2 million more for the company, than the second highest bidder. But our client, who lived in a rural town, chose the lower offer and partnered with the local group.

A couple of weeks prior, the private equity guys had flown in to the rural town (to inspect the facility) in a private jet. I stepped inside it. It was fancy. They chartered it for the sole purpose of flying in. Bad first impression on a cowboy. If you're going to spend thousands of dollars for simple travel arrangements, instead of spending a few hundred dollars, what will you end up doing to my company which I've built up my entire life? Good question.

Legion Followers

Given the hordes of obsessive fans that follow pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, associates are loaning the Filipino icon with private jets for travel needs. Former Philippine governor Chavit Singson and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum are among two individuals with the means to provide such assistance, and who have done so recently.

In several of Eminem's songs, the rapper discloses the downside of extreme fame. He lamented the inability to perform basic human functions in a bathroom stall without fans asking for an autograph.
Pacquiao's $20,000 Flight

Travel via a private jet becomes the appropriate method in light of the wave of fans attempting to be around Pacquiao. (Hint: Give the man a break, people.) Not bad for a once-aspiring pugilist who used to jog wearing nothing more than worn out slippers in the dirt-patched trails around General Santos City.

Is flying on planes the benchmark practice for today's marketplace athlete? At the all-star level, absolutely. If Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young misses his team's flight back home, he can pull out an American Express credit card and obtain a personally chartered flight, thereby avoiding the airport (and fans) altogether.

There is a time-saving benefit for Manny Pacquiao, an individual who did not want to be driven 30 minutes to a local gym in Arlington, Texas - instead preferring a temporarily constructed one in his hotel building. Saves time. Time is money. But unlikely money, you can never recoup time. It is lost forever, to the Grim Reaper.

A Chartered Life

The chartered flight - on Bob Arum's dime, who ultimately charges his client millions of dollars in promotion-related fees - lets the WBO welterweight champ have uninterrupted moments of peace and quiet. In a taxing physical and mental contest, silence is golden.

There is the risk management element. Security. After Manny's bouts in the U.S., he typically leaves out of LAX (the Los Angeles airport) by way of a Philippine Airlines flight. The media, often a hounding Philippine press, keeps the camera right in front of the Pacman - bright lights, et al, on a plane. (The same questions repeat themselves, like a broken record. Out comes the same answers.)

Ratings equals advertisements. We eat up (and love) their coverage. We propose the Philippine press, and crazed fans, have not read George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. The bible for personal interactions.

Dozens are simply trying to catch a glimpse or take photos on their cellphone or digital cameras. Many form a circle and try to touch or tug at their idol. A few are looking to monetize the event by thrusting memorabilia at Pacquiao, such as t-shirts, posters, and gloves for a valuable autograph. And just as in a Beatles concert, some just plainly lose their mind and scream at the top of their lungs, followed by sobbing, at the mere sight of Manny. [ Related Resource: 1 (800) THERAPY ]

[ A 2nd Resource: Facebook News on Manny Pacquiao ]

Top Rank's cost? Harvard alum Arum - who bills Manny Pacquiao seven figures in professional services - can shell out between $1,000 to $2,500 per hour for aircraft usage (flight and ground time), depending if it is a light or mid-size jet. Ultimately, the Pacman foots the bill. It's the principal's checkbook that feeds the advisors. (Hello.) In the United States, it's a business expense. Tax deductible. Uncle Sam doesn't get to horde as much. (Sarcasm)

Chartered flights' expenses can vary significantly. London to Paris, one-way, can be about $6,000. California to Dallas, Texas - three hours. And return flight - three hours. Six hours plus ground time. Assuming $2,000 per hour, say $14,000. Alright, a $20,000 round trip bill would be much (as an estimate). But you add in the two press tours which took place in Dallas and New York. That's a lot of hours. The cost in growing the appetite for luxuries? Inestimable.

When you teach a behavior, you form a habit. An excessively expensive one. (Arum, what are you doing? We see you.) The question is, from which lenses are these expenses being viewed from? The "cowboy in a rural town"? Or the "private equity big shots"? Or simply the obsessive lenses, too crazed and who are after an autograph - despite being in a bathroom setting. One thing is certain. Manny Pacquiao is running for office in May. There's plenty of poor voters.

No longer a banker, and converted to a lowly writer who must now fight Top Rank for all-access press credentials, I make my trek from Houston to Cowboys Stadium the week of March 13. iPod in tow, with old school Michael Jackson songs blaring on my eardrums, my travel costs round trip will be approximately $70 in gas from a fuel efficient Honda Accord. Plus hotel. Windows down - driving fast - pursuing what you love, life is still good.


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