The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

June 7, 2010
Supervisors mull airport contract, giant corporation opens wallet

The multinational corporation in danger of losing its stranglehold on the lucrative concessions at Sacramento International Airport has increased its political contributions to county supervisors' coffers, records show.

HMSHost, the Maryland-based company owned by multinational corporation Autogrill, is trying to keep a large chunk of the airport's multimillion dollar food and beverage concession business. In the past several months the company has made several notable donations:

  • $1,000 to Supervisor Jimmie Yee on March 29
  • $1,000 to supervisorial-candidate Phil Serna on March 30
  • $3,900 to Supervisor Roger Dickinson's Assembly campaign on March 26.

In addition, a local consultant representing the company, Ted Sheedy, has given $750 to Dickinson's Assembly campaign.


RP AIRPORT FOOD FAMILY.JPGIn the relative scheme of campaign finance, the contributions are small. They do, however, represent a marked increase from previous years when supervisors reported no donations from the company.

The company also increased its gifts to Airport Director Hardy Acree. Most years the company gives Acree a Christmas gift basket valued at about $75, according to disclosure forms the airport director is required to file annually. In 2009, however, the company gave Acree a $100 gift basket, a $50 holiday gift and a $100 dinner. Sheedy popped for $65 worth of wine that same year, which must have been a slightly nicer vintage than the $40 worth of wine Acree received from SSP, one of the companies competing against HMSHost for the concessions contracts.

As The Bee reported Monday, HMSHost has had a monopoly on the Sacramento Airport concessions for decades. Airport officials, however, want to increase competition in the new terminal -- currently under construction -- and possibly bring in some local businesses.

HMSHost's piece of the pie seemed to be in serious jeopardy last week when Acree and other airport officials proposed as many as six separate contracts including direct contracts with small local restaurants. Supervisors, however, led by Roberta MacGlashan and Roger Dickinson, want officials to come back to the board with a plan to contract with two large concessionaires who would then partner with the local businesses. This is potentially good news for HMSHost and SSP, two major companies in the running for the contracts.

The supervisors will discuss airport concessions at the June 15 board meeting.


-- Robert Lewis

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