The Washington Times - November 24, 2008, 12:07PM

 

With Citigroup now struggling and getting a bailout from the U.S. government, what’s going to happen to the bank’s 20 year, $400 million deal for the naming rights of the New York Mets new ballpark?

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Nothing, according to  company executives.

“You know, those decisions were made in a different time and a different place and we have a legal and binding agreement around that and so I never heard it discussed,” Citi’s CFO Gary Crittenden told CNBC Monday. “I don’t think it’s an issue.”

As long as Citigroup doesn’t find some way wiggle out of the agreement, the Mets should consider themselves extremely lucky. No way in heck they’d be able to command $20 million a year if they were to shop the stadium’s naming rights now.

From Citigroup’s perspective, the issue of naming rights for Citi Field has less to do with the expense and more to do with public relations. How can they shell out $400 million for a stadium after shedding more than 50,000 jobs and looking for government assistance?

From Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber:

“Well, by all means, don’t scrimp on that marketing budget. I mean, 52,000 people are going to get pink-slipped between now and Opening Day….but Citigroup remains committed to giving the Mets nearly a half a billion dollars to see its name in lights on a baseball stadium.

Seriously, with decisions like that, it’s not hard to see why Citigroup is in such trouble”

Los Angeles Times columnist Kurt Streeter ran an in-depth piece about sports and the economy this issue Saturday, and I’ll give him credit for not falling into the “things are horrible everywhere” storyline. While the Times does not ignore many of the obvious negative indicators, it also outlines some possible silver linings.

“On one hand, team owners will feel the heat if ticket sales sharply decline. Yet, even here lies opportunity. Television probably will take up the slack. Outlets such as ESPN know that if attendance drops more people probably will be watching live events from their homes, boosting the kind of captive audience that TV advertisers love.”

 

Scenedaily.com takes another look at how NASCAR is being hit by the economic downturn.

“With corporate sponsors providing the bulk of any race team’s budget, the country’s larger economic tremors have triggered dread at speedways, in race shops and in NASCAR’s executive suites. The result: Layoffs, scrapped teams, bargain-shopping corporate sponsors and fears of an even bloodier 2009.”

Yikes.