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Business Edge for Thursday March 1 2001

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MUCH THANKS: For those of you who were waiting for an Internet chat and a Business Edge on Wednesday, Feb. 28: A baby-related emergency kept me from work for the day. Turns out the baby is fine, and his Mom and I thank you for your patience and continued support.
 
THE UMBRELLA SPRINGS A LEAK: When it became clear in the early weeks of the new professional golf season that Internet retailer Buy.com was running into financial trouble, the money gurus within the PGA Tour began to wonder if an umbrella sponsorship would be the right way to handle things next time the Tour's junior circuit's sponsorship deal comes due.
 
This week's events may cinch the decision for them. Buy.com has sued the PGA Tour for breach of the sponsorship deal under which the retailer has financed the tour that bears its name. Buy.com claims that the PGA Tour stepped out of line when it made a retail alliance with USA Networks' e-commerce arm. The suit seeks $45 million in damages.
 
The PGA Tour has openly searched for a new sponsor for the Buy.com Tour since the retailer's financial problems came to light. The sponsorship was to last through the 2004 season, but may end before that if Buy.com defaults on payments. But Tour officials say that the 2001 and 2002 seasons are in no danger because of funds already committed. The last two seasons were to be financed by the sale of Buy.com stock, but that seems unlikely because the stock's value has been hovering under a dollar per share.
 
Buy.com recently laid of 125 employees and implemented cost-cutting measures.
 
BIG TARGET MARKETING: If you want to make an impression in this business, you can hardly do better than the world's biggest amateur tournament. Spalding Sports Worldwide has known that for years, and this year it extends its relationship with the Oldsmobile Scramble to a ninth season.
 
Participants at 2,200 local qualifying events will get a Strata golf ball variety pack. The 17,000 players who make it to sectional qualifying will get an Etonic glove as well.
 
'This tournament gives us an opportunity to sample over 100,000 golfers with the four different models of Strata in just five months,' said Mike Ferris, Spalding's new business development chief. 'Over the years, we have found this tournament to be a very effective tool in reaching the avid golfer with our latest golf balls.'

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