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GM's luxury suites may be struck out

The latest of GM's pricey perks to go on the chopping block may be its suites at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.

By Jon Birger, senior writer
Last Updated: December 11, 2008: 10:25 AM ET

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NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Say what you will about General Motors, but at least the public relations team there learns from its mistakes.

On Nov. 18, CEO Rick Wagoner was pilloried by Congress (as were the CEOs of Ford (F, Fortune 500) and Chrysler) for taking a private jet to Washington to plead for a federal bailout. "It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo," said U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.

Ever since, GM has been in full repentance mode.

A few days after Nov. 18 hearing, GM said that it was returning two of its leased corporate jets. On Nov. 24, the automaker announced it was canceling its estimated $7 million-a-year sponsorship deal with golfer Tiger Woods. And now GM (GM, Fortune 500) may be trying to exit or renegotiate the lease for its luxury suite at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.

"We've had constant dialogue with them," said Tigers spokesman Ron Colangelo, adding that GM's suite lease runs through 2009. GM is also a Tigers sponsor, with a GM sign and Chevy vehicles adorning the center field fountain. "We're sensitive to their situation, and we're trying to be as flexible with them as possible."

GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato confirmed that there is an "ongoing dialogue" between GM and the Tigers: "Obviously we continue to carefully evaluate all sponsorships - sports and other - as we look for opportunities to reduce costs during this economic recession."

Tigers suites rent for $120,000 to $130,000 a year, according to Crain's Detroit Business. Amenities include seating for 18 people, free parking, a private restroom, interior and exterior television sets, a computer with Internet access, pre-game batting practice sessions with ex-Tigers pitchers, and a full catering menu (highlights: market fresh crudite, chilled king prawns, and black pepper and garlic-crusted beef tenderloin).

The perk-cutting at GM has generated some rare kudos for a company that lately has received almost no good press. "After months of headlines highlighting profligate spending by the very same companies coming to the federal government begging life support, it would appear that someone finally gets it," said U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, a Democrat on the House Oversight committee, of GM. "Perhaps the Citigroups and AIGs of the world will soon follow suit." To top of page

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