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Published: Wednesday, 7/10/2002

Even in bankruptcy, OC courts clients at golf tourney pro-am

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Pro-am events such as Dana's, in which Vicki Goetze-Ackerman played, are popular. Pro-am events such as Dana's, in which Vicki Goetze-Ackerman played, are popular.
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It looks like a lot of fun, shooting a round of golf with professional women golfers and mingling with Detroit Red Wings players Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty.

Is it too much fun for a company in Chapter 11 bankruptcy the last 20 months?

Owens Corning's annual celebrity pro-am golf event today at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania would appear to be a charitable donation, and such donations, except from the company's charitable foundation, are expressly prohibited without bankruptcy court approval.

But OC says the event is a legitimate business expense, and an expert on bankruptcy law agrees.

To be a pro-am host at this week's Jamie Farr Kroger Classic LPGA tournament, the company paid an undisclosed amount that will go to area charities.

“This is not a donation per se. We have a lot of customers here, and they will all be playing in the pro-am,'' said Gregg Bronk, an OC spokesman.

Mr. Bronk said OC views the pro-am as a valuable marketing tool in building customer relationships.

James White, a University of Michigan law professor who specializes in bankruptcy law, said a court would view a pro-am golf sponsorship as normal business.

``You can do that without a court order, although it could be challenged,'' he said. ``If [Owens Corning] did something crazy, they would be challenged.”

But a creditors committee, which is the most likely challenger, usually gives a company slack to conduct business the way it sees fit, he said.

“But what you and I might think it is extravagant doesn't necessarily mean that it is.''

Mr. Bronk said the company's sponsorship hasn't been challenged by creditors and that OC officials maintain that the value from the pro-am far exceeds its cost.

Frank Perch, the U.S. trustee assigned to the case, as well as several attorneys on the creditors committee, either would not comment on the situation or did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Owens Corning isn't the only area business to sponsor a golf event associated with the Farr tournament.

Dana Corp., Mercy Health Partners, Family Health Plan, Toledo Edison, ProMedica Health Systems, KeyBank, and Fifth Third Bank (Northwest Ohio) all have been hosts at events at this week's tournaments.

“This is no different from any other business endeavor where you're trying to attract new business customers or, with existing customers, retain or gain more of their business,'' said Fifth Third spokesman Karen Fraker.



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