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Volume 24 No. 156
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Ticket Holders Seek Refunds After Messi Failed To Meet VIP Fans At Soldier Field Exhibition

VIP ticket holders for the Messi & Friends exhibition soccer match Saturday at Soldier Field "not only didn’t get a promised meeting" with La Liga club FC Barcelona F Lionel Messi, they also claim promoters "have not offered any formal explanations or promises of compensation," according to Jack McCarthy of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Miami-based promoter Numero 5 Producciones reportedly had "promised refunds to more than 75 VIP ticket holders who spent up to $2,500 for a premium package for the charity all-star game." But ticket holder Holli Alexandra Towe yesterday said, "We have received no formal communication from the promoter, nor any refunds." Towe said that a "group of 47 VIP ticket holders banded together to seek compensation." At least two other attendees also "contacted the Tribune with similar complaints." Messi "failed to attend scheduled pre- and postgame events." The exhibition games were "originally envisioned as a four-city tour to benefit Messi’s charities," but the games "drew poorly in South America while a scheduled match in Los Angeles was called off after a payment dispute" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/11). Chicago ticket holder Tony Sherwood said that fans "received a T-shirt with a screen print autograph and a ball" with Messi's signature, but "not what they were promised." USA TODAY's Laken Litman reports Sherwood got a "full refund thanks to Visa." The credit card company indicated that it "had enough evidence to dispute" the charge and that it would "refund his money right away, and they would go after Numero 5" (USA TODAY, 7/11).

DING ON HIS REPUTATION: In L.A., Kevin Baxter wrote Messi's "goodwill tour of the Americas may have done more to damage the Argentine soccer great's reputation than it did to fill the coffers of his charity foundation" (, 7/10). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser called the Messi tour a "complete debacle." Kornheiser: "People paid $2,500 thinking that they were going to meet Messi before the game. No. During the game? No. After the game? No. You know what he did after the game? ... He got on a plane and he went to Ibiza." ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted the team of All-Stars that played against Messi included several former local college players and said, "It appears to be fraudulent on every level. ... I'm sure his people will say, 'Wait a minute, we didn't explicitly promise.' But the understanding is there when your name is on something, so you committed a fraud" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/9).

: AD AGE's Anita Chang Beattie reported Chinse messaging app WeChat is "stepping up its courtship of users outside its home market" and is beginning an "international ad campaign" featuring Messi. China-based Internet service provider Tencent spokesperson Katie Lee said that the company has "previously promoted the app in markets such as Thailand, India and Mexico using local celebrities, but the Messi campaign is the first time Tencent's using a single ad to target multiple markets." The campaign "targets 15 markets" -- including Messi's native Argentina and Spain, where he plays professionally -- but not the U.S. (, 7/10).