by Jonathan Vatner | April 01, 2007


David Scypinski, senior vice president
of industry relations at
Starwood Hotels & Resorts,
says negotiating a corporate
meetings contract can take up to a year.

Five months. That’s how long it took to negotiate a meetings contract template between Jack Eichhorn, the Rocklin, Calif.-based director of global meeting services at tech giant Oracle, and David Scypinski, the Washington, D.C.-based senior vice president of industry relations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

And that’s just the most recent round of talks. When Eichhorn joined Oracle in 2005, the company already had attempted to negotiate such a deal, without success. Last September, as part of an effort to consolidate meetings spend, he resurrected the discussion. In their crammed schedules, he and Scypinski found time for half-day conference calls, during which they, and sometimes their bosses and procurement officers, hashed out agreeable terms, while lawyers on both sides scribbled the appropriate language and voiced objections.

Talks dragged on and on. Oracle wanted more safeguards over the privacy of company and attendee data; Starwood couldn’t make all those guarantees. Oracle wanted to limit its liability in the cancellation clause, as did Starwood. Draft by draft, clause by clause, the two companies hammered out an agreement.

At the end of February, they had produced the document, a few pages of legal gold. Scypinski, who has negotiated about 30 of these overarching contracts -- and who says Oracle’s went more quickly than many others -- can’t be sure that the contract was a success until he sees that Starwood hotels want to accept Oracle’s business under those terms. Eichhorn feels the agreement will be a great time-saver for future Oracle meetings.

“One of the reasons we are focused on these global agreements is because of the time commitment involved in contract negotiations,” says Eichhorn. “Our goal is to streamline and simplify it, so that we are not starting at ground zero whenever entering a group agreement with Starwood.”