The National Football League's Oakland Raiders franchise announced that it has hired former Xerox copier salesman and Apprentice fourth-place finisher Nick Warnock, 27, to sell the 143 luxury suites at the Oakland Coliseum. A 1999 article in the San Francisco Business Times notes that the Raiders had sold only half of their suites that season, the lowest occupancy rate in the NFL, which cost the team about $5 million that year.
Raiders CEO Amy Trask told the Associated Press that "I called someone else in our office equally addicted to the show and told him, `I want to hire this guy to sell suites.' At first he was dubious, but when we saw on his Web site that [Nick] had a football background, it seemed like a great idea."
Indeed, Nick starred in football in high school in Bayonne, NJ but concluded that "professional football was not meant to be" while playing for the University of San Diego. However, Nick appears thrilled to join the ranks of the Silver and Black. As he told the AP, "This is one of the greatest organizations in the country.... It's as recognizable as the Yankees."
We wish Nick luck in his new position. With the Raiders coming off a shocking 4-12 season, he will need all of his claimed skills as the "zen master of presentations" and the "hardest-working salesman in America" to get the team anywhere close to a sellout on luxury suites, which range in price from about $40,000 to about $150,000 each..
Before Nick starts work, though, he might want to remember that his position is a newly-created one. Previously, the Raiders had taken the position that suite sales were solely the responsibility of the Oakland Football Marketing Association, which primarily reported to the Joint Powers Association ("JPA") -- the entity that runs the Oakland Coliseum.
The Raiders claimed that they were misled into believing that all the suites were sold before they moved from L.A. back to Oakland in 1995. Said longtime Raiders executive Al LoCasale in the East Bay Business Journal, "They lied to us," so "it's their responsibility" to sell the seats.
The Raiders sued the JPA and were awarded $34.2 million by a jury in August 2003 for their losses on the move. However, this amount has been frozen pending appeal. Thus, since their gains through litigation seem to be capped, the Raiders are now trying a new strategy: sell the suites themselves.
We applaud Raiders owner Al Davis and CEO Amy Trask for deciding to follow a sales strategy over a continuation of their litigation strategy, even though Ms. Trask is an attorney herself. We hope this "Nick and Amy" story has a happier ending than the "showmance".