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Citigroup explores breaking naming rights deal with Mets

February 3, 2009

Concerns about how Citi is using US Federal bailout money is prompting Citigroup to reconsider the naming rights deal, valued at over $400 million over 20 years.

The Mets deal was attacked last week as an example of misplaced spending by financial institutions that needed bailout funds, according to the paper.

A Citigroup spokesman in New York told Reuters on Tuesday that “no TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) capital will be used for Citi Field or for marketing purposes.”

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Ted Poe wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last Wednesday, asking him to push Citigroup to dissolve the Mets deal, the paper said.

Most of me says “aw, crap. A visible team in NYC and a naming rights deal? Certainly, the deal has been signed, but the government can find ways of helping Citi nullify the deal, which would be bad press all around for a time.. But if AIG can blow cash on a resort trip, why can’t Citi halp out a baseball franchise… boy, the logic isn’t strong on this one, huh.

The naming rights deal is still valuable, and the Mets franchise is in the public eye; someone else will pony up for some (less rich, dammit) naming rights. But this waffling, and likely breaking of the deal is a tough blow for the Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon, who has already had a tough loss from Bernie Madoff’s financial scheme. According to the Metsblog, Wilpon might even have to sell a minority interest in the team.

Maybe “Jackie Robinson Field” is the most viable naming idea out there, until the Mets can get some corporation to slap their name on the outside of the rotunda.

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