Selling the naming rights for your stadium sounds all well and good on paper. For just the cost of changing your team stationery, and perhaps the derision of your fanbase, you can pull in tens of millions of dollars each year. And in most cases, it’s pretty painless. But nothing’s painless when you’re the Mets. With their new stadium opening in four months, it’s somewhat apropos that things are falling apart just shy of the finish line.
The Mets made a cool $400 million by selling the naming rights for Citi Field to Citigroup. But with Citigroup taking billions of dollars in losses because of the subprime mortgage meltdown, there’s now doubt whether the company will be able to stay in existence, let alone afford to sponsor a stadium.
Citigroup laid off 52,000 workers this week (not including Willie Randolph), and it’s stock is down 90 percent from a year ago, making it a prime target for a takeover. As the NEW YORK POST opines, “Think ‘Goldman Sachs Diamond,’ ‘Morgan Stanley Stadium’ or ‘HSBC Field.’”
Despite its failing stock, Citigroup insists it will honor its record-shattering agreement to pay $20 million a year for 20 years for the honor of calling the ballpark Citi Field, where signs have already been made touting the name.
“We remain committed to the relationship to the Mets. They are an important part of our marketing priorities,” said Citigroup spokesman Steve Silverman.
Still, team officials are getting increasingly nervous, and have refused to answer any press inquiries, directing all questions to Citigroup. And they’re checking the fine print to see how Citigroup might buy out - or bail out of - their contract.