July 13, 2003
GEOFF MATTHEWS -- Business Editor -- Ottawa Sun

Man, it's lonely at the top

In theory this was supposed to be a lot of fun.

When John Ernst called, offering the chance to be part of this summer's version of Executives on Auction, he was full of assurances that the bids would come rolling in.

Maybe not quite at the record pace set by Jozef Straus last year. After all, someone paid $3,000 to spend a couple of hours with the president of JDS Uniphase.

But the minimum bid of $200? No problem, said Ernst, who organizes the auctions several times a year to raise money for a variety of charities.

With under a week to go before the auction closes on July 17, however, panic is starting to set in.

Not for Randi Shinder, mind you. The president of Clean Brand Inc. and Dlish Fragrance Inc. is already up to $1,500 in the bidding.

Claudia Chowaniec, past chairwoman of the Greater Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, has seen bidding on her time go up to $500.

And someone is willing to shell out $320 for an afternoon or evening dining, chatting or golfing with Ella Mar, vice-president of operations with Espial.

In fact, there has been at least a base bid made for almost every one of the women executives who are taking part in the auction to raise funds for their favourite charities.

The men, however, haven't been faring well at all.

Nary a bid yet for such local heavyweights as Peter Becke, president and CEO of Sibercore; Andrew Coutts, CEO of Databeacon; Jeffrey Dale, president and CEO of the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation; Michael Gassewitz, president of Meriton Networks or Jim Roche, president and CEO of Tundra Semiconductor.

Only David Mann, former chairman of OCRI and an ex-VP with Nortel, has generated any action -- a $200 bid. For the rest of the guys? Nada.


But the real reason for the sweaty palms and the sleepless nights? The big goose egg in the bidding column beside the money editor for the Ottawa Sun.

Each morning, nervous fingers click on to the Executives on Auction website and select the Ottawa page, while the editor holds his breath in anticipation. But after almost two weeks, nothing.

Even the prospect of a summer champagne balloon ride over the nation's capital hasn't triggered any response.

Mind you, other local media reps haven't been doing much better.

In fact, only the dynamic morning duo of Doc and Woody from CHEZ 106 and Mauler & Rush from Xfm have attracted any attention from bidders.

Nothing yet for CFRA's John Brenner, Brad, Steph, and Stuntman Stu from 106.9 The Bear, CJOH personality Max Keeping or Anne Howland, who recently took over as editor of the Ottawa Business Journal.

Ever the optimist, Ernst assures participants that there's still plenty of time. That most of the serious action comes in the last day or two. That the final two hours can generate as much as $3,000 in bidding.

Easy for him to say. His pride (and ego) aren't on the line.


[ our note: everyone did get a bid, and we raised nearly $10,000. Our thanks to Geoff for promoting the auction.]