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Devils' advocate has plenty to sell at Pru Center Hockey team's new CEO pledges to build inroads into N.J.'s corporate community

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Scott O'Neil created partnerships with major companies like Coca-Cola while with the 76ers.
Scott O'Neil created partnerships with major companies like Coca-Cola while with the 76ers. - ()

Scott O'Neil made it clear in his opening remarks as the new CEO of the New Jersey Devils that he is eager to interact with the New Jersey business community — and eager to meet executives more than halfway.

"To the corporate community — we're gonna come see you," O'Neil said during the press conference last Thursday to introduce new owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer.

And while the man who will be responsible for selling suites at the arena is eager to get into the community, he also realizes his best marketing tool is the building itself.

"We're going to do events here — opportunities where we can host executives," he said. "We'll say, 'Come give us a test drive, see if you like the way we run.' "

And that, O'Neil said, is just the first step.

"We'll also sell individual suite nights," he said. "If you're a company and you do a lot of corporate entertaining, maybe take clients to New York, we'll say, 'Come here for a night. Give us a try.'"

O'Neil has plenty to sell.

Reportedly, 19 of the arena's 76 suites are unsold. Pricing varies, depending on location, but the median cost of a suite is roughly $200,000. That includes tickets, but not food — which can add another $100,000, depending on what is served.

With so much potential revenue out there, it's no wonder O'Neil will make suite sales one of this top priorities. Assembling the right team will be key.

"This organization has been a little crunched, a little understaffed," he said.

In New Jersey, O'Neil said, the biggest resource is the location.

"The market is outstanding," he said. "There are 21 corporate headquarters in New Jersey, most are based in North Jersey. It's an incredible market with great disposable income. The suites are valued priced."

If you listen to Steve Vajtay, managing partner at the law firm McCarter & English, they actually are a great value.

"Given our Newark office's location across the street, it has been a terrific venue for entertaining clients," he said. "The law is a relationship business and those relationships extend beyond the office.

"Our suite at the Rock facilitates the seamless transition from a work environment to a more relaxed, after-hours environment with our clients."

O'Neil loves the idea of reaching out to companies in Newark, but he also plans to target companies within an hour of the arena.

And he'll do whatever it takes to get them in a suite.

"It doesn't come easy," he said. "They are not going to call us. We actually have to do the work."

E-mail to: tomb@njbiz.com
Contributing: Beth Fitzgerald

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