CEO flew to Tampa on PNC jet

Bank defends Super Bowl trip

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PNC Financial Services Group Chief Executive Officer Jim Rohr, along with some clients, took the corporate jet to Tampa, Fla., to see the Super Bowl, PNC has acknowledged.

Mr. Rohr, whose bank acquired ailing Cleveland-based National City Corp. at year-end with nearly $8 billion in federal assistance, stands alone among local corporate chiefs contacted about hitching a ride on company aircraft to the big game.

Mr. Rohr "is required by the board to take the corporate aircraft for all personal and business trips" for security reasons and because he has "a 24/7 job," PNC spokesman Fred Solomon said yesterday. "The corporate jet reduces his down time ... and allows him to travel with clients and other senior leaders so they can meet as they travel."

PNC would not say how many people were on board or if other PNC executives besides Mr. Rohr went along.

The trip comes at a time of growing scrutiny of corporate pay and perks.

In November, the chiefs of the big three U.S. automakers faced public and congressional criticism for using company jets to fly from Detroit to Washington, D.C,, to plead for government bailout money. On the next trip to Washington, the executives drove. General Motors and Ford have since put their corporate aircraft up for sale.

Another major recipient of federal bailout money, Bank of America, drew criticism for spending an undisclosed amount of marketing dollars to sponsor a five-day fanfest outside the Super Bowl stadium.

The capital infusion PNC received from the U.S. Treasury came in the form of preferred shares the government purchased from PNC, which must be repaid within 10 years. Last week, PNC reported its first quarterly loss in seven years on costs tied to the merger and said it would cut 5,800 jobs over the next two years.

Among other top Pittsburgh companies contacted, neither H.J. Heinz Co. CEO William Johnson nor PPG Industries CEO Chuck Bunch used the company aircraft for the Super Bowl, the companies said. Mr. Johnson, who was vacationing in Florida at the time, drove himself to the game and paid for his seats, spokesman Michael Mullen said.

Bank of New York Mellon CEO Robert Kelly, whose company received $3 billion in federal assistance, did not attend the Super Bowl, spokesman Ron Gruendl said. No other BNY Mellon executives used corporate aircraft to get to the game, he said.

Among other local financial institutions that received a chunk of the bailout fund, First National Bank of Pennsylvania and Parkvale Financial do not own corporate aircraft. At S&T Bancorp, a spokesman did not return a phone call.

PNC would not say how much the Super Bowl trip cost nor who picked up the tab for Mr. Rohr's game tickets or any accommodations. The Steelers and Pittsburgh-based PNC have a decades-long business relationship, PNC said.

"PNC believes its shareholders are best served by making the most effective and efficient use of executive time," Mr. Solomon said.


Patricia Sabatini can be reached at psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.


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