Big Apple's Snapple Grapple: Ire as Mayor Shoehorns Deal

12 December 2003

"A back-room deal hatched in secrecy and made only for one company" is how some New York City officials view the compact made with Britain's Cadbury Schweppes, owner of the Snapple beverage and bottled water brand.

The damning words are those of Forrest R Taylor, chief of staff to City Council speaker Gifford Miller: "All objective parties have criticized this deal and only those working for the mayor voted in favor of it," Taylor complained.

The deal, approved by four votes to two, grants Snapple exclusive rights to sell its beverages and water on municipal property. OK, so some people may not like the idea, but that's democracy -- isn't it?

However, some say the voting procedure is better suited to the heyday of Mao Tsung than the premier city of the globe's leading democracy.

Favoring the Cadbury compact were Mayor Michael R Bloomberg and three of his appointees. Arraigned against: four of New York's five borough presidents plus the city's comptroller, William C Thompson junior. At which point, math majors might take pause: "Hey, isn't that four folk in favor and five against?"

Actually not. Curiously, the five presidents have only one vote between them. So Snapple it is, leaving the Bronx's Adolfo Carrión a decidedly unhappy borough president. "I believe that the bidding process for the Snapple concession agreements raises too many questions of process and possible conflicts of interest," he said after the vote.

Nor is the comptroller's office over the moon. Talking to reporters after the vote, deputy comptroller Greg Brooks refused to rule out the possibility that his boss will use his powers to reject the Snapple contract when formally presented to his office. This is his prerogative should there be evidence of corruption or procedural missteps in the procurement process.

But Mayor Bloomberg was in celebratory mode, declaring himself "excited and proud" that Snapple is now the city's official iced tea and water. Alongside a related agreement giving Snapple exclusive rights to sell its products in NYC schools, the deal is expected to generate up to $166 million (€136.66m; £95.25m) for the city over five years.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff