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It's Survival in the Citi

Mike SteffanosFriday, January 30, 2009
By Mike Steffanos

More congressional grandstanding over the naming rights contract:

Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Ted Poe sent a letter to new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday, urging the government to demand that the company drop its $400 million, 20-year agreement for naming rights to the New York Mets' ballpark. The stadium opens in April.

"At Citigroup, 50,000 people will lose their jobs. Yet in the boardroom of Citigroup, spending $400 million to put a name on stadium seems like a good idea," said Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat. "The Treasury Department, which forced Citigroup corporate executives to give up their private jet, should also demand that Citigroup cancel its $400 million advertisement at the Mets field and instead begin to repay their debt to the taxpayers."

Citigroup reached its agreement with the Mets three years ago. It is among several American banks that have received financial assistance from the federal government in recent months.

"Citigroup claimed it was on the brink of financial disaster, then demanded and took $45 billion from the taxpayers through government giveaways," said Poe, a Texas Republican. "While average Americans are hunkering down worried about their jobs, food, clothes, and mortgage payments, these irresponsible executives are blowing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars."

This whole naming rights thing won't go away. What is sad is that I have to believe that both of these congressmen really do understand that the Treasury Department can't simply demand that Citigroup cancel its deal with the Mets.

Although they cleverly describe it as a "$400 million advertisement at the Mets field", they're talking about a legal and binding contract that Citigroup signed with the Mets before all of this happened.

In the summer of 2005, I got really, really sick, to the point where I was unable to do nearly enough of what I needed to do to make a living. As I was one of countless Americans living on the edge without health insurance, my medical bills mounted while my personal obligations refused to go away.

All of the debt I fell into was a contract between me and various institutions I did business with. Funny thing, but there were no grandstanders demanding that I be let out of those contracts. I was stuck with them.

If Citigroup tried to unilaterally back out of this deal, it would cost them millions of dollars in litigation. Mr. Poe and Mr. Kucinich understand that, but they don't let the facts get in the way of a political ploy.

I also find it interesting that whenever this deal is criticized by someone looking to make political capitol out of it, it's always spoken of as if the $400 million is payable all at once and it is all coming out of the bailout money.

The truth, as most of you already know, is that the money is payable over 20 years. $20 million doesn't make for as much pseudo-populist jingoism as $400 million, I guess.

I've said before on this subject that the Mets should rework the deal with Citigroup if at all possible to backend more of the money. Then they might get some positive public relations from this mess instead of this contrived garbage that the franchise is complicit in stealing money from taxpayers. If it is possible at all to do this, they should, because this won't go away as long as there is a single politician or television pundit that is willing to milk it for all it's worth. I don't know, maybe they're desperate for this year's payment after the Bernie Madoff affair.

Whatever the Mets do -- and history tells us they're always ready to fall into another p.r. misstep -- someone should call these dishonest politicians on this pointless grandstanding and twisting of facts. I remember at the end of the movie The American President when Michael Douglass' character gives a somewhat corny speech that includes telling his arch-enemy, "This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up." I often think of those words when I see idiots like these two congressmen muddying up an issue for 15 minutes of attention from the media.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (6)

Mike, I agree 100%.

Even if the deal was struck yesterday, I still consider it advertising--just as Kucinich called it in his statement.

So a company that accepts bailout money is no longer allowed to advertise? Ridiculous. Assuming the concept of marketing is sound--IOW that businesses (and banks in particular) earn more money by advertising--preventing the bailout recipients from advertising would be making it harder for them to turn things around.

Add to this, the fact that (as you said) we are talking about a signed contract--plus that it was signed years ago--and you have pandering by politicians raised to an art-form.

it is 100 per cent political grandstanding.get used to it.joe (the plagiarizer) biden made a statement today about ceo's being thrown into a brig and our new leader mr obama said that now is not the time for companies to make profits.HE WILL LET THEM KNOW DOWN THE ROAD WHEN THE PROPER TIME IS!!maybe we should swap fred and jeff for joe and barack.they all seem to be in over their heads.hopefully the mets will find a way out of the contract with citifield sooner, rather than later.this b.s. will never go away till they they rename the stadium..

Please keep the political stuff out of this blog, Gary. I'm a liberal Democrat, and I doubt if you'd really want to here my thoughts on the subject.

Greed and grandstanding know no party. Logic is nonpartisan.

I read Mike's Mets and I approve its message.

Mike, Citi will not be around in 1 or 2 years anyways, after a bigger bank buys them out, because of their financial crisis.
I believe the congressmen are correct in their assessment, but more important,as a Mets fan, I would not like to see new state of the art stadium be renamed in disgrace,like Enron Field. (of course Enron is in a low class by themselves)

The best re-name for citi stadium, I saw was Second-Citi.

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