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August 9, 2009

Mark Emkes

Tim Finchem


LAURA HILL: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us. I know we all are ready to get out to the first tee for the start of our final pairing at 2:00 o'clock, but we have an important and exciting announcement to make prior to. Today we have PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem with us as well as Mark Emkes, Bridgestone Americas Incorporated's, chairman, CEO and president. And I'll turn it over to Mr. Emkes to make the announcement.
MARK EMKES: Thank you, Laura. On behalf of Bridgestone Corporation, Bridgestone Americas, Bridgestone Sports and Bridgestone Golf, I'm very excited to announce that we've reached an agreement in principle with the PGA TOUR for a four year extension that will keep the Bridgestone Invitational here at Firestone Country Club through 2014.
We all know that the global economic situation continues to be a bit challenging for everyone, so we're pleased to be able to do our part to continue to provide a boost to northeast Ohio's economy, and the Bridgestone Invitational is certainly a great way for us to highlight our brands, but it also provides economic stimulus to this area and we think it helps bring the community together and it supports great charities like the First Tee.
Many of you know that we've had a presence here in Akron for over a century. In fact, Harvey Firestone, he built the Firestone Country Club over 80 years ago and actually drove the first ball here in 1928, and we recovered some old film footage, and his swing wasn't very good, but he made contact, so that's a great piece of footage to have.
Just down the road here a couple miles our Bridgestone and Firestone brand of tires are designed at our Akron Technical Center where we employ over 1,000 people.
And we're also pleased to announce that Bridgestone America's tire operation has reached an agreement to extend its marketing partnership with the PGA TOUR. It means the Bridgestone brand's exclusive designation of the official tire of the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour will also continue through 2014. So the Bridgestone brand will continue to leverage this marketing partnership through our Bridgestone Performance Park Expo at PGA events, and this agreement also means that our tire company will continue its marketing relationship with PGA TOUR telecasts, pgatour.com, and other PGA TOUR licensed media such as Golf Digest and Golf World.
Bottom line, we're thrilled. This is a world-class event that we think it's wonderful for the Akron community. It brings incredible international exposure for our Bridgestone and Firestone brands. And even though times are tough, it's important that we continue investing in our two brands. So the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club is a perfect example of a strategic investment to our brands that will show great returns well into the future.
Thank you.
LAURA HILL: Mr. Finchem, would you like to say a few words before we have questions?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes. On behalf of the International Federation of PGA Tours, I'm delighted that Richard Hills from the European Tour is with us for today, as well. I just want to thank Mark and the executive team at Bridgestone for their partnership the last few years and for today's announcement of their commitment to the next number of years, through 2014.
This has been a very special relationship. We've been together here for the last five years. The tournament has continued to grow. We've had outstanding success with our global television penetration right back here to the level of the crowds and the great support we get here in Akron.
In addition, Bridgestone has been really focused on the northeast Ohio area generally, the northern Ohio golf charity effort that happens here this week, and it's just been a great partnership.
I also think that for Bridgestone to make this commitment, as Mark indicated, in a down economy speaks a lot about the value of PGA TOUR golf and International Federation of PGA Tour golf from a branding standpoint, an advertising standpoint, a global-reach standpoint, a business-to-business platform standpoint. The value is certainly there, and we seem to be now in a very solid trend as we look out past this downturn of having an increasing number of our sponsors step up and move forward with us over the next half a decade. And for that we are delighted. And Mark, I just want to say I think today's announcement will help us continue that momentum, and that means a lot to our business at the PGA TOUR level.
I also would reiterate Mark's comment about economic impact. I think in today's world it's important that each and every opportunity we have, every week on the PGA TOUR, we recognize the economic impact that our tournaments have, and clearly in northeast Ohio this is a great example of what happens when a quality company like Bridgestone joins together with these great players and local charities to put on something that really moves the needle from the impact of the local economy.
We'd like to just reference that week after week because it's so important for everybody to understand that when you spend a dollar with the PGA TOUR, some percentage of it is going to charity and some percentage of it is affecting jobs and economic livelihood until the area.
With that said, like Mark, we're delighted. We're very pleased. We're excited. A lot of things happened in this discussion leading into today's announcement that tell us that our partnership is even going to be more robust in the years coming forward. A very close marketing cooperation and focus, growing the impact of the event on a global basis, there's a lot of concrete things that came out of these discussions beyond just saying that we're going to go forward together, and for that, as well, we're very, very pleased.

Q. This may be an obvious question, but the agreement for the next four years, is this going to be at the same prize money levels, higher, lower, any difference?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, as you know, we announce prize money on an annual basis. We'll continue to do that. But I'll just say that generally our plan -- as I've said many times publicly, our prize money is not going to grow the next three or four or five years at the same rate of increase that it has in the past five years. It is going to continue to grow at some level, and this agreement is consistent with that.

Q. Mark, could you talk about specifically what drove your company to decide to take this step in a down economy, what the benefits are, some of the specific benefits?
MARK EMKES: Yeah, you know, we've had to be, like all companies, very lean and strategic during this economic downturn, and there's been some things we've cut out. You know, we never sacrifice safety or quality, but everything else was fair game.
But stuff that has been successful like the Bridgestone Invitational, working with a class organization like the PGA, our association with the NFL, with the NHL, those things have worked for us. So even in a down economy, we still need to sell Bridgestone golf balls, Bridgestone clubs, Bridgestone tires, Firestone tires, and we think that this venue is just an excellent chance not only to show our brands here in the United States, but this is an international stage, so this is a wonderful opportunity, and it has proven to be successful for us.

Q. I was just curious about Tiger's success at Firestone and the impact that had on these negotiations, and also just the Firestone legacy in Akron and all that.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I mentioned earlier, I think the happiest person today might be Tiger (laughter), winning 60 or 70 percent of the time you play here.
Well, we have all the best players in the world come here every year to play. They absolutely love the facility and the golf course. It's a great challenge for them. But it's got so much history, and rightfully so, given its quality, that it's -- when you look down the list of PGA TOUR events, the first thing the players look at is the golf course, and everybody wants to play here. So you're starting with that, and then you add to it whatever we do and a great sponsor like Bridgestone, and you can put together something pretty special, and that's what's happened here over the years.

Q. You've touched on the impact it has for the brands internationally, but could you just elaborate a bit more? What does the WGC Association do and how far around the world does it go for you?
MARK EMKES: Well, the PGA was very intelligent. Last year I was here with the chairman from Japan and they put us on golf carts and they scooted us around and showed us all the international feeds. They said this feed here goes to Japan, this one goes to South America, Argentina, Mexico, this one to Europe, this one to India. And so when you see that it's pretty impressive. You realize just how big the exposure is here with the PGA and the WGC. So that was a strong selling point. They're very good at marketing.

Q. When the rest of the golfing world reads about this announcement tomorrow, what sort of message does that send when the majority of the WGCs continue to be played in the States?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we were delighted to add a WGC to be played this year in China starting in the fall, and we think that helps give us balance.
I honestly think, as I've said before, I'm not so sure if that was 30 years ago -- we like to see a balance. We have to do what the market tells us what we have to do, but 30 years ago it might have been probably -- probably would have been a bigger problem than it is today because we do get such terrific television penetration globally. We're on the air this week in 230 countries around the globe, and if you're a fan of Sergio Garcia's in Spain, you'll see him live prime time in Spain. So I think we have to take the big view, the long view.
We think the HSBC addition in China is a very positive thing, not just because of trying to make the WGCs better and better and driving more value back to the sponsors, but also because China has such great potential for golf over the next generation, and we want to increase the speed at which that potential is generated.
So we're comfortable right now, but as I've said all along, we're always looking for opportunities to make things better.

Q. Just one kind of stupid question, but is this commitment, it's going to be a World Golf Championship through the whole extension?

Q. It's going to be a World Golf Championships event?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes, that's the plan.

Q. I'll ask both of you slightly different questions on the same subject. For golf going into China, what does it mean? And for the other sponsors of the WGC, does having the footprint in China help you?
MARK EMKES: Well, if you want I'll go first. Certainly we're very happy that the PGA is going to be going into China, because while we're not a title sponsor of that event, our name is still going to be there. So we get some exposure as a result of the China event, so we're very pleased with that situation.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, it's just another step in the course of -- on the one hand, China developing a golf infrastructure, on the other hand having world-class events that create interest, and the two have to dovetail to drive the growth of the game in China.
But I think another lynchpin will be if, in fact, golf is accepted into the Olympics this fall. You start to add it all up, and I often say if you could extrapolate the number of golfers in China in 50 years at the same percentage from World War II to now in Japan, it would be astounding. So you don't buy that number, cut it in half, cut it by 70 percent, it's still a huge number. They have a tremendous potential to impact the global scope of the game, and this is just one step. There are many, many steps to come, but this is a very positive one.
MARK EMKES: Bridgestone has manufacturing facilities in China and we sell products in China. So yeah, that's a win for us, as well.
LAURA HILL: Gentlemen, congratulations, and thank you.

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