Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 3, 2009
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Name Dropping

Sign of tough times:

Citigroup Inc., eager to quell the controversy over how lenders are using government bailout money, is exploring the possibility of backing out of a nearly $400 million marketing deal with the New York Mets, say people familiar with the matter.

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In a statement Monday, Citigroup said that "no TARP capital will be used" for the stadium -- referring to government funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But as it revisits the pact, Citigroup is essentially acknowledging that the volatile political climate could make it untenable for the bank to proceed with the deal.

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The Mets deal was attacked last week as an example of misplaced spending by financial institutions that needed bailout funds. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) and Ted Poe (R., Texas) wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday, asking him to push Citigroup to dissolve the Mets deal.

I can't really get into this story very far, and it's the worst kind of story as far as I'm concerned (I'm not a big fan of business-of-baseball stories and I hate being compelled yet again to mix baseball and politics), but a few quick observations:

1. So much for the brief era in which the Mets appeared to be getting closer to financial parity with the Yankees. I'm not that personally familiar with the state of the naming-rights market but I have to assume that it will be very hard to get an equivalent contract in terms of annual revenue or duration.

2. Sadly, if Citi does exit the deal, it will be tough to get a name that fits as well with the team and the city - I dread some phone company or regional bank that changes its name every three years, or something silly like "Vitamin Water Park." And I swear, if they end up naming it "Obama Field" I'm not going to be responsible for my actions.

3. As you can see if you've seen pictures or been by the park, the colossal Citi signs have been up for a while now.

4. We have not even seen the beginning of how Washington politicians are going to be micromanaging entities that have accepted taxpayer money. More on this another day, but while I supported the original Paulson Plan - which involved the federal government buying bonds in arms-length transactions in the hopes of recovering most if not all of its original outlay - I can't possibly support any of the more expansive bailouts that have been done since, not least because of the galloping corporatism that is unleashed when the government goes from being a mere customer of private business to an investor, donor and business partner.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2009 • | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Screw it - drop the "Citi Field" and just call it Shea Stadium. After all, the new Yankee Stadium is being called "Yankee Stadium" and not Con Edison Park or some such.

I realize the Wilpons need money after the Madoff debacle, but still. It's not like they are going out and spending all the Citibank revenues on getting Manny or anything.

Posted by: A.S. at February 3, 2009 10:28 AM

Seaver Park
The Metropolitan
GoodenPlenty (sorry)

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 3, 2009 11:48 AM

Why not leave it as Citi-Filed and don't require Citicorp to pay at all?

My suggestion is "Two Shea"

Posted by: Lee at February 3, 2009 12:19 PM

One wonders how banks are going to behave with politicians pulling strings? Law of unintended consequences coming into play?

Posted by: feeblemind at February 3, 2009 12:44 PM

Give the corporations to the homeless. It's not like they can screw the pooch* any worse than the corporate masters have.

*pooch=the US middle class

Posted by: Berto at February 3, 2009 1:49 PM

GoDaddy.com Field

Posted by: jim at February 3, 2009 1:52 PM

I have some other naming suggestions:

http://business.theatlantic.com/2009/02/the_most_important_banking_news_of_the_day.php

Posted by: Dr. Manhattan at February 3, 2009 2:24 PM

Give congress to the homeless. It's not like they can screw the stimulus any worse than Pelosi has.

Shea the Sequel looks like the favorite. Jets/Giants have been unable to find a right buyer for months, the economy has changed and dubious corporate expenditures are on holding for the next couple quarters. Lobbying DC bottom feeders excepted, of course.

Posted by: dave at February 3, 2009 3:34 PM

How about...the Left's Field?

Posted by: Ryan at February 3, 2009 3:50 PM

It's real simple. Don't accept taxpayer dollars to bail out your failures if you don't want to be micromanaged.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 3, 2009 4:20 PM

seth, government micromanagement of businesses is bad for a lot of reasons and for a lot of people besides the handful of corporate managers who make that decision. This is one of the essential tropes of corporatist economics: that as long as the managers of a business consent to something done by the government, there must be no further objections to it.

Posted by: Crank at February 3, 2009 4:25 PM

Crank, I'm less a fan of the bailouts than you might think. But that being said, if my tax dollars are going to help them out I dont think its too much to ask that they shelve the massive bonuses or swanky new corporate jet for the time being. I definitely think the auto companies shouldnt receive any money at all; the banks I am more ambivalent about because of the negative trickle downs when banks fail.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 3, 2009 5:02 PM

Whats' going to be the standard now for letting corporations that don't go into bankruptcy out of signed contracts? We only let them out of the politically embaressing ones ?

Posted by: Jerry at February 3, 2009 6:10 PM

How the hell does the government expect banks to become profitable businesses again if they're not allowed to advertise?

Posted by: Keith L. at February 4, 2009 12:21 AM

You choose your bank on the basis of advertisements or whether it has its name on a stadium?

Posted by: Magrooder at February 6, 2009 5:18 PM

Advertising is incremental - it's about building name identification over a period of years. How do you decide to buy anything? Not on ads alone, but ads shape our awareness of what options are out there.

Ironically, the best reason for a bank to sponsor a stadium, in these times, is as an icon of financial stability: "see, we can afford to do this." But that message is less valuable when the public knows you are accepting taxpayer money.

Posted by: Crank at February 6, 2009 6:05 PM
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