ABC news has been breaking these stories wide open lately. Here's another one:
Citi, AIG Won't Drop Big Sports Sponsorships
Struggling Citibank just sealed a multi-billion-dollar emergency "backstop" deal with the U.S. government. The financial behemoth, suffering with billions in bad mortgage-related assets on its books, recently shed 53,000 workers and saw its stock price lose over half its value. Yet it's in a 20-year contract to pay the New York Mets $400 million to name the team's new stadium "Citi Field."
"This type of spending is indefensible and unacceptable to Citigroup's new partner and largest investor: the American taxpayer," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., in a statement Monday.
Citi isn't alone: Imploding insurance giant AIG is paying the British soccer team Manchester United $125 million for the privilege of having its logo appear on Man U's uniforms. That, despite the fact the firm is standing largely thanks to a $150 billion lifeline from the U.S. Treasury.
"A friend of mine joked they should put 'US Treasury' on the front of their uniforms," said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan watchdog group which is outraged by the expenditures.
Who else is taking public support while holding pricey naming deals? It's not a short list. Among the biggest:
- PNC Bank ($7.7 billion in TARP funds pledged) is locked in a 20-year, $30 million deal to keep the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates named "PNC Park." A spokesman there said the bank did not use TARP funds to make payments on the deal.
- J.P. Morgan Chase ($25 billion from TARP) has a 30-year, $66 million contract for the Arizona Diamondbacks to call their stadium "Chase Field." "That was an agreement that was signed 11 years ago," by a bank that was bought by Chase, said bank spokesman Tom Kelley. "Tell me what 2008 has to do with 1997? That's a contractual obligation."
- Comerica ($2.3 billion in TARP funds pledged) has an identical deal with the Detroit Tigers to refer to their home field as "Comerica Park." Both expire in 2028. "From our perspective, they're not connected," said Comerica's Wayne Mielke of the stadium deal and the bank's anticipated receipt of bailout funds. "Why should it be reviewed?" The cost of the naming rights, said Mielke, "does not inhibit our ability to lend."
- Capital One famous for their tagline, "What's in your wallet?" and a recipient of $2.3 billion in TARP money are the proud and paying sponsor of the Capital One Bowl, formerly known as the Florida Citrus Bowl. The bank did not respond to requests for comment.