The Los Angeles stop on the PGA Tour is getting a name change, beginning in 2008, when the Northern Trust Open will be played at Riviera Country Club.
Northern Trust, an investment management and personal trust company based in Chicago, has a five-year deal as title sponsor, through 2012, and is raising the total prize money next year from $5.2 to $6.2 million.
The announcement of the new title sponsor, which will be made today in a statement from Chicago and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., is something of a surprise. It had been reported last month that BearingPoint would be the company to replace Nissan, which had been the title sponsor for 19 years.
However, tournament director Tom Pulchinski said a final agreement with BearingPoint was never completed.
"Nothing's ever done until it's signed, sealed and delivered."
Pulchinski said the tournament's relationship with Nissan had been a good one, but he welcomed Northern Trust.
"They are a solid company and they are really going to be a working partner, not just throwing their name on the thing and writing checks," he said. "Their feeling, and ours, is that Los Angeles should have a premier event. The purse probably had fallen behind, but now we've picked it up."
Nissan's contract did not end until 2010, but the automaker was able to opt out early.
"It's best for Nissan, best for Northern Trust, best for the tournament and best for the PGA Tour," Pulchinski said.
Northern Trust's interest in becoming title sponsor at Riviera gained momentum after it brought on Wasserman Media Group and its contacts with the PGA Tour. Wasserman, a sports and entertainment management and marketing company, is the holding company for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League and will serve as a consultant to Northern Trust and the tournament.
Wasserman Media Group became a bigger player in pro golf in June when it acquired OnSport, whose founder was Gary Stevenson, former executive vice president of business affairs for the PGA Tour. OnSport is credited with developing the $6.3 Wachovia Championship, one of the premier stops on the PGA Tour, and also with revamping the $6-million Travelers Championship, formerly the Greater Hartford Open.
Northern Trust has two offices in Los Angeles, downtown and in Westwood, and also has branches in Newport Beach and Santa Barbara. Rick Waddell, president and chief operating officer for Northern Trust, said the company has coveted the Los Angeles area because of its demographics as a target market for potential clients for the wealth management services it offers.
"It will raise the visibility of our band in a very positive way," Waddell said.
Northern Trust has no interest in moving the event from Riviera Country Club. The tournament began as the Los Angeles Open in 1926.
"Riviera has a history to it, the players love playing there, the quality of the venue, the setting, it fits the bill perfectly for us," Waddell said.
The first Northern Trust Open will be played Feb. 14-17. Charles Howell III is the defending champion.