Not Bathroom Humor: Richest Deal Ever

What may be the biggest and richest municipal franchise in city history was all but awarded yesterday, a deal in which a single company gets the exclusive right to both shape the urban streetscape for a generation, while selling advertising on thousands of new bus shelters, newsstands, and some 20 public toilets.

Most of the attention was focused on the toilets, however, which always make good copy in sophisticated New York.

But the money involved in the deal tentatively handed to Cemusa, a Spanish owned firm, is no potty joke. City officials said that Cemusa has pledged to pay $1 billion of its earnings from the ad sales into city coffers over the next 20 years. But sources say the firm pledged even more, as much as $1.3 billion, out-bidding rivals Van Wagner, and DeCaux, the giant French firm that has been the odds-on favorite to get the franchise since it began pushing for it in 1992.

"The real question is how DeCaux didn't get this," said an industry source not connected to either firm. "They're the Yankees, and New York's franchise is the World Series."

In addition to deals in Eurpoe, Cemusa provides bus shelters in both Miami and San Antonio. But the firm is less than one-tenth the size of DeCaux which was the first to come up with the idea of providing free bus shelters in exchange for ad revenue and which has landed deals in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in recent years.

Cemusa's local lobbying was handled by Suri Kasirer, the fundraiser and lobbyist who is married to Rudy Giuliani's former chief of staff, Bruce Teitelbaum. Since 2003, Kasirer's firm received $192,000 from the Spanish company to push its agenda, lobbying forms show.

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