Is this name safe on the new Mets stadium?
UPDATE: Citigroup confirms retaining the naming rights deal with the Mets. See details.
Just over two years ago, the New York Mets announced that they had reached an agreement with Citigroup for the naming rights to their new ballpark slated to open in 2009 for a record $400 million over 20 years, or $20 million annually.
The extraordinary deal highlighted the power of MLB and naming rights allure in the New York market. And, even at $20 million annually over 20 years, it has a provision by which the parties can extend the deal for up to 35 years, showing the investment and returns that Citigroup saw in the Mets' new stadium. Given that naming rights for new Yankee Stadium were not up for grabs, the Citigroup deal was seen by many as the next best thing.
It was a staggering deal, eclipsing the record amount for a naming rights deal brokered by the NFL Houston Texans and Reliant Energy for $10 million annually to 2032. The deal brokered in 2002 is $100 million less than the Mets will pull in from Citigroup.
The deal with the Mets was before the economic downturn. Even before the heavy slide in the credit market, Citigroup had begun to cut costs, reducing their assets by 20 percent since the first quarter of this year.
Today, Citigroup announced that 53,000 workers will be laid-off – a staggering sum totaling 20 percent of their workforce.
According to The Associated Press, “a Citigroup spokesman said that while certain regions and businesses might have higher concentrations of job cuts, they would generally be across the entire company and around the world.”
And while the steep declines in the financial sector have Citigroup deeply entrenched within it, in the naming rights world, one is reminded of the self-inflicted collapse of Enron that cut short the deal that the energy giant had with the Houston Astros for the name of their stadium.
So, the question is, will the steep losses at Citigroup scuttle the most lucrative naming rights deal in American sports history with the Mets?
The answer from the Mets is, no.
Reached for comment, Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz simply replied that the deal with Citigroup is not in peril.
“Everything is fine with our naming rights deal for Citi Field,” Horwitz replied by email.
With cuts being made by Citigroup over the course of the year, and today's announcement, if the Mets' comments are true, it may be that nothing short of a total collapse by Citigroup will derail the record naming rights deal.