By Robert Haugh
The SF Chronicle has written another good story about the 49ers’ (mis)management of Levi’s Stadium.
Last month, the Bay Area’s most prestigious newspaper reported how the “49er Five” ousted former City Attorney Brian Doyle. The five 49er-friendly Councilmembers did so at the team’s request.
Now, the Chronicle reports how the 49ers used the Redbox Bowl to hide money from the City. They also tell us the team execs who were involved in covering up the action.
Since the story is behind a paywall, we’ll highlight some key paragraphs.
Here’s the key charge:
The city contended in court that 49ers officials allegedly siphoned a total of $800,000 from the Redbox Bowl in 2018 and ’19 — sponsorship revenue that should have been divided between the team and city — and transferred it outright to the 49ers. Then the team allegedly concealed the transactions, the city claimed in court filings, by redacting financial records provided to Santa Clara.
Wow. Who would do such a thing?
Court records show the city blamed the alleged diversions on 49ers President Al Guido, who signed the Redbox Bowl contract. The city also complained Guido’s actions amounted to an illegal conflict of interest because he was steering taxpayer money to his employer, the 49ers.
But Guido didn’t act alone. Who else was involved? No surprise. Jim Mercurio is involved.
In 2019, Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana asked Mercurio, the 49ers’ vice president of stadium operations, if the team owned or had an investment in the Redbox Bowl, according to court records. Santana said that would raise “self dealing and conflict of interest issues” in stadium contracting.
Mercurio wrote that the 49ers did not own the game, records show, but he didn’t reveal the owner and didn’t respond to the query about whether the team had an investment in the game. Chandhok said the 49ers did not own the game.
At times, the 49ers implied the bowl game was a money maker; in 2019, they asserted they took steps “to increase profitability of the event.” But in financial reports to the city, the 49ers said the game lost money every year at Levi’s — $1.6 million in all.
We reported in 2019 how Mercurio illegally got stock from stadium vendors.
After our report, Mercurio was forced to sell his stock in two companies because of illegal conflicts.
Like Mercurio, Guido had to sell stock in two companies too after a City investigation, according to the Chronicle:
In 2020, soon after the Redbox Bowl dispute flared, 49ers lawyer Hannah Gordon informed the city that Guido had been serving on the board of directors of a vendor called Kore Software, which licensed customer-relations software to Levi’s Stadium. While marketing itself to the stadium, Kore was paying Guido a retainer and gave him stock options — transactions that raised conflict-of-interest concerns.
In her letter, Gordon said Guido recently had quit Kore’s board and repaid the money Kore paid him, and the team would repay the city $115,000 — the taxpayers’ funds that had been paid to Kore.
The Chronicle reporters Ron Kroichick and Lance Williams have uncovered another 49er exec involved in the operation.
That person is the 49ers’ team attorney Jihad Beauchman.
After the 2019 game between Cal and Illinois, then-city attorney Doyle asked team attorney Jihad Beauchman for a copy of the game’s sponsorship agreement, which detailed how much Redbox agreed to pay for naming rights.
Beauchman produced a document signed by Guido, but records show key revenue numbers were blacked out. Doyle pressed for a clean copy of the document, according to court records. Eventually, the 49ers disclosed what had been redacted, court records show — Redbox paid more than $1.8 million for naming rights in 2018 and ’19.
We look forward to the Chronicle following what’s happening in the Mission City and writing more stories. This is clearly a developing story.
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