Are you entrusting your money to banking houses or sportin’ houses? The United States is in its worst credit crisis since the Great Depression, as shotgun marriages are arranged and financed by the government. Investment and commercial banks are regularly taking multibillion-dollar write-downs because of their gambling addictions. But the once-staid institutions continue another addiction: paying big money to get naming rights on pro sports facilities — a dubious marketing ploy for financial companies, which should be advertising their safety, not their sporting nature. Actually, in paying big bucks to put their names on sports facilities, financial institutions have been subliminally admitting that they are gamblers, not fiduciaries.

The New York Mets (baseball) are drawing up a 20-year, $20 million-per-year deal with Citigroup, a hodgepodge of financial institutions that is addicted to the same thing as the Mets are: errors. Elizabeth Ody of calls Citigroup “The Bad Boy of Finance.” The company is involved in every kind of money manipulation “and appears to have made big mistakes in most of them,” she says. On September 10, U.S. Senate investigators charged that Citigroup and other Wall Street firms have been helping offshore hedge funds avoid U.S. taxes.

The New York Yankees have fleeced taxpayers to get a new stadium. Now Bank of America is finalizing a deal, said to be for $20 million a year, by which the bank could post its logo and signs all over the park. B of A bought the worst mortgage dog of all, Countrywide. The deal was originally considered a bargain, but now it looks questionable. Not having had enough, B of A then agreed to buy Wall Street’s Merrill Lynch, which did the original financing on San Diego’s downtown ballpark. B of A already has its name on the stadium in which the Carolina Panthers (football) play. It could become one of a few companies whose names are on more than one facility.

Of the 70 pro stadiums, ballparks, and arenas in the United States and Canada, 20 sport the names of financial institutions. That sum was 21 until last year. Subprime lender Ameriquest had the rights to the Texas Rangers’ (baseball) field until 2034. In early 2006, Ameriquest settled a class-action suit with the attorneys general of 49 of the 50 states over allegations of predatory lending and bait-and-switch tactics. Soon it closed all its branch offices and stopped taking loans. Then it quietly withdrew from the Rangers deal.

In San Diego, the naming rights of the football field belong to Qualcomm, a very good telecom company. The baseball stadium bears the name of Petco, supposedly a pet-supply retailer. But you might even call it a doggy financial concern. In 2000, two buyout firms bought Petco, then a publicly held company, and took it private. Then they brought it public again, and the insiders reaped fortunes in an economically meaningless move. Later, a competitor offered top money for the company but didn’t want to retain Petco’s brass. So in 2006, Petco was taken private a second time by the same firms, at a price well below what the competitor had offered. The buyout specialists have loaded the company with debt. Petco shareholders have been neutered — Wall Street’s specialty.

Charlotte-based Wachovia Corporation is the fourth-largest U.S. banking chain. The Wachovia Center is home of the Philadelphia 76ers (basketball) and the Flyers (hockey). But Wachovia is flying low now; its loan portfolio is loaded with stinkers. Its stock has taken a beating.

KeyBank has its name on KeyArena in Seattle. The Seattle SuperSonics (basketball) are deserting for Oklahoma City. A women’s pro team will still play in the arena. The bank is ailing as the result of the mortgage meltdown; as losses mount, it has sliced its dividend in half. But its stock has dropped by much more than half.

The Conseco Fieldhouse is home to the Indiana Pacers and Fever (men’s and women’s basketball). Stephen Hilbert, a former encyclopedia salesman, built Conseco by buying small insurance companies, adding a casino along the way. Hilbert had a grand lifestyle, paying himself $119.4 million in 1997. He couldn’t resist buying Green Tree Financial, whose head, Lawrence Coss, paid himself $106 million in 1996. The marriage of the profligate fellows was a disaster. Conseco went into bankruptcy in 2001, emerging after shedding $6.6 billion in debt but not shedding its naming rights.

The Cincinnati Reds (baseball) play in Great American Ball Park. Great American Insurance is a unit of American Financial Group, a highly diversified money machine put together by Carl Lindner, formerly a close associate of junk-bond king Michael Milken, who went to the slammer for his predations. For years, American Financial employed lawyer Charles Keating as executive vice president. Yes, that Keating: the one known for the Keating Five scandal. Keating got dubious favors from five U.S. senators. One was John McCain.

The Detroit Tigers (baseball) play in Comerica Park, named for a bank that spent 158 years in Detroit, then last year moved its headquarters to Dallas. Downtown Detroit does that to people. In early September, Standard & Poor’s cut its outlook on Comerica stock to negative, and now analysts are saying it may have to cut its dividend.

The Arizona Diamondbacks (baseball) play at Chase Field, formerly Bank One Ballpark. Bank One was purchased by JPMorgan Chase in 2004, and the ballpark was rechristened. Early this year, our country’s financial policy makers proclaimed that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would plunge 2000 points if Wall Street’s Bear Stearns went bankrupt. So the Federal Reserve threw in $29 billion, and Bear was sold for a cheap price to JPMorgan Chase. Now JP has Bear’s old woes: trillions of dollars in shaky derivatives.

Some financial institutions are doing better than the teams they represent. PNC Financial Services is doing well, thank you. The same cannot be said for the Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball) who play in PNC Park. Similarly, M&T Bank Corporation is doing fine. The bank’s name is on the stadium in which the historically so-so Baltimore Ravens (football) play.

More from SDReader


Fred Williams Sept. 24, 2008 @ 2:03 p.m.

Maybe they should reverse things...instead of naming the stadiums after losing companies, they could name the companies after teams.

How about rooting for the Wachovia Wealth Stealers?

What about the CitiGroup Credit Card Chargers?



Don Bauder Sept. 24, 2008 @ 2:53 p.m.

Response to post #1: Fred, you are a genius. How about the L.A. Shifters and Dodgers? The Atlanta Give 'Em a Falcon? Best, Don Bauder


Fred Williams Sept. 24, 2008 @ 4:18 p.m.

Something that's not funny is how we're getting fleeced here in San Diego by our own dodgers and codgers.

Have a look at my latest:

The Board of Supervisors just collectively extended their middle fingers in our direction...


Fred "Troublemaker" Williams


Don Bauder Sept. 24, 2008 @ 5:18 p.m.

Response to post #3: Agreed. Congrats, Fred. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 24, 2008 @ 5:22 p.m.

Response to post #4: Good post. Grantville smells. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas Sept. 24, 2008 @ 8:58 p.m.

I didn't know Fred had a blog here.... I can cause some trouble over there too!


Don Bauder Sept. 25, 2008 @ 10:51 a.m.

Response to post #13: I remember reading about all the naming rights deals you mentioned. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas Sept. 24, 2008 @ 9:04 p.m.

BTW, who here can name the very first stadium/arena naming rights deal.

The mothership of all naming rights deals.

The one that started all this corporate sponsorship nonsense??

Hint.........It was a financial institution.

Think hard...............???

I'll give you another hint-it actually started right here in So Cal less then 20 years ago??????

Who was it?????? . . .. Here it comes.... . . . . It was Jerry Buss-owner of the LA Lakers and went down when they played at the Forum.

Great Western did the deal...the first naming rights deal..... and the Forum became the Great Western Forum.


JohnnyVegas Sept. 24, 2008 @ 9:14 p.m.

How about rooting for the Wachovia Wealth Stealers?

What about the CitiGroup Credit Card Chargers?

How about the I Can't Pay My Countrywide Mortgage Bills?

Or the MBNA Bank Account Raiders?

Or the Fannie Mae Please Don't Bend Me Over Rams?

Here we go, We're In The White House Therefore We Are The We Know What We're Doing Chiefs?


Don Bauder Sept. 24, 2008 @ 9:16 p.m.

Response to post #7: Fred will welcome your input. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 24, 2008 @ 9:18 p.m.

Response to post #9: I have read about and written about naming rights deals for many years and I swear I had never heard that before. Thanks for the info. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 24, 2008 @ 9:20 p.m.

Response to post #9: Those are masterpieces. Best, Don Bauder


inactive Sept. 25, 2008 @ 9:24 a.m.


I do belive you are incorrect. Actually Jerry Buss did't start the revolution. THe Fabulous Forum was renamed The Great Western Forum in December of 1988. However in 1971, the Rich company paid for the naming rights to the Buffalo Bills new stadium which was called, oddly enough, Rich Stadium untill 1998. Also in 1971, the New England Patriots began their 2nd season in the NFL playing in their own stadium. It was Schaefer Stadium, as the naming rights had been sold to Schaefer brewery. The oldest one I can think of is Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It was originally named Sportsman's Park, but in 1953 Anheuser-Busch wanted to pay to rename it Budweiser Stadium, but the baseball commisioner said no. Then they proposed Busch Stadium after one of the company's founders, that was ok'd and that's what it was called. The name was shifted to the Busch Memorial Stadium when it opened in 1966, When it closed in 2005 the Cardinals new stadium opened in 2006 also called Busch Stadium. A little trivia on the Forum: the first Lakers game played there was against the San Diego Rockets.


inactive Sept. 25, 2008 @ 11:47 p.m.

I almost forgot the oldest example. William Wrigley renamed Cubs Field after his company in the late 20's. I remember reading once that alot of people at the time thought Wrigley really renamed it as a tribute to himself rather than his company. response to # 23 In most cases I don't think corporations can attribute severe financial stress to securing naming rights to a sports facility. In most cases, it's not that expensive, relatively speaking of course. For example, Qualcom only pays 900k per yr, Rca pays 1 million for the RCA dome, Safeco pays 2 million for Safco Field. For companies earning 100's of millions or more, this is a drop in the bucket. Qualcomm earned almost 9 billion in revenue last year. Even a for company spending 10 million a year, like Reliant ( for the Houston Texans stadium), it's a very small amount on the balance sheet. If you look at the list of names changes over the last 15 yrs or so, only a small percentage has been because companies have failed.The most obvious one is Enron Field which had nothing to do with the naming of a staduim. In most cases it was due to expiring contracts or companies merging. For example, the Phoenix Suns arena, originally America West Arena was changed to US Airways Center after their merger. One other thing I found interesting. Of the 4 major league sports in this country, hockey has the most corporate sponsored arenas. Of the 30 NHL teams, 27 have sold arena naming rights. The NFL comes in last with just 1/2 having corporate sponsorship.


inactive Sept. 26, 2008 @ 11:34 a.m.


Fair enough though it depends on what your definition of big bucks is. I believe the 10 million per yr, 30yr contract that Reliant has with Houston is the most expensive deal in place for a venue currently in use. But even 10 million is a relative small amount to company with almost 10 billion in annual revenue. And when the Mets new stadium opens next year, Citgroup will be paying 20 million a yr for 20 yrs. But again, 20 million is a drop in the bucket to a company that generated 140 billion in revenue last yr.( BTW, our vaunted Padres will be the Mets foe in their stadium opening game next April). I read an article listing the average cost and length of all the current naming rights deals at $54.6 million over 19 years or about. about $2.9 million a year. Maybe alot of money to you and I, I suspect these companies don't consider it big bucks. If they did they probably wouldn't spend that much; too much money out of their multimillion bonus pools.


JohnnyVegas Sept. 26, 2008 @ 12:43 p.m.


If memory serves me, the San Diego version of the rockets actually made the playoffs 1 year.

Just did some research on the San Diego Rockets-Pat Riley-the NBA/Lakers/Heat coach played for the Rockets!


inactive Sept. 25, 2008 @ 12:26 p.m.

supplement to # 14 By "in 1953 Anheuser-Busch wanted to pay to rename it Budweiser Stadium" I meant Busch wanted to rename it after the Cards were bought for about 4 million. They still retain the naming rights to the new stadium till 2026 even though they sold the team in the mid nineties


JohnnyVegas Sept. 25, 2008 @ 1:46 p.m.

Wow, I had never heard of those other deals.

I had always thought Jerry Buss and Great Western started the trend.

The trend really took off after the Forum deal, I wonder why it did not take off after the St Louis or Buffalo deals????

The old San Diego Rockets........... How did Houston pull that one off??


Don Bauder Sept. 25, 2008 @ 1:57 p.m.

Response to post #15: Anheuser-Busch shareholders will vote soon on whether to merge the company into Belgium's InBev. Could there be another naming rights deal? Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 25, 2008 @ 2:01 p.m.

Response to post #16: I don't know why the trend didn't take off back in the 1970s, but the massive building of new stadiums at taxpayer expense started later. Naming rights were parts of those packages. The rights were a scam, because of this question: why did the team get the proceeds from the naming rights? The home city was paying at least half and usually more of the cost of the stadium. Why didn't cities get some of the proceeds? Best, Don Bauder


inactive Sept. 25, 2008 @ 2:30 p.m.


If memory serves me, the San Diego version of the rockets actually made the playoffs 1 year. But in general i don't think they were very good and not too many people showed up at the sports arena to watch. The owner sold them to somebody in Houston in either real estate or banking, I don't recall which. I do seem to remember that he sold them for alot more than he paid for them. I think there are a couple of reasons not much was done with stadium naming rights until the 90's. Before then, I don't think most large companies looked at it as worth the money unless you also owned the team. It wasn't until probably the last 15 years or so that some many events were shown on such a wide scale. You have to remember when Buss sold the rights to GWS, the Lakers were only on regionally over the air, on pay subscription tv, Prime Ticket and On-TV. So the market area was much smaller than it is today. Buss sold in prime ticket 94 and it morphed into FSN west Also there were way fewer venues then and most were older.Now there are probably 350 sports venues alone with sole naming rights. and then don't forget the non sports venues. The boom in naming rights really started in the early/mid 90's, which oddly enough coincides with the proliferation of new venues and cable and satellite tv being more readliy available to more households with alot more programing. The more potential customers that can see your name, the more inclined you are to advertises. It's all about the money.


inactive Sept. 25, 2008 @ 2:33 p.m.


when the cards moved into the new Busch stadium in 2006, they signed a 20 year contract. Unless there is some escape clause, they may be contractually bound regardless.


JohnnyVegas Sept. 25, 2008 @ 8:30 p.m.

The home city was paying at least half and usually more of the cost of the stadium.

It is pure corporate welfare.

When Petco paid for naming rights to the Padres ballpark and it ALL went to Moores I was just shaking my head in disgust. That was obviously done on purpose by the Mayor.

Same thing with the ticket guarantee and all the other scams in these stadium deals.

These contracts are not rocket science. The notion that these "give aways" came about are because the City cannot negotiate or the Pro Teams negotiate much better is pure nonsense.

I have stated many times that a first year law student, with just Contracts I under their belt, could have done a job 10 times better than what the City of San Diego did.

No, these scams are done intentionally to line the pockets of the Moore's and Spanos's and others.


JohnnyVegas Sept. 25, 2008 @ 8:38 p.m.

The more potential customers that can see your name, the more inclined you are to advertises.

Your observation about the explosion of viewership is probably correct. That certainly explains the explosion of naming rights.

As I watched old reruns of the "Beverly Hill Billies" and "I Dream of Jeannie" on WGN Superstaion, and other sitcoms from the 60's and 70's, I think back about the amount of TV programing we had then and how different it is today.

We had the three big networks on VHF and usually about 2-4 local UHF stations, and 1 PBS station, for a total of 8 or so stations. The stations logged off the air usually by 2 AM back then.

Today basic cable has 30+ chanels and you can purchase up to 200 chanel packages. No station ever logs off the air- on the air 24/7/365.

It is amazing how different it is from just 30 years ago.


Visduh Sept. 25, 2008 @ 8:40 p.m.

In the aftermath of securing naming rights to a sports facility, nany major corporations have had severe financial stress. My take is that they reach a point of assuming that they are so good that they can do no wrong--and promptly do just that.

So, Qualcomm spends millions to secure naming rights to the former San Diego Stadium. Shortly thereafter, its board appoints the son of the founder as CEO.

Qualcomm is doing fairly well now, despite losing infringement suits. But there are two contraindicators going. Spending money to put its name on a stadium and, importantly, passing the CEO job to the son. Check your history--neither of those things are good predictors of future success. Just the opposite is true. I own no Qualcomm stock now, although I once did.


Don Bauder Sept. 25, 2008 @ 8:46 p.m.

Response to post #19: It is now spreading to colleges. There are other tie-ins that are disturbing. I went to the Rose Bowl about 8 years ago to see Wisconsin play. The bank kept playing a tune from a Budweiser ad. There must have been money in that. And Milwaukee must have been furious. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 25, 2008 @ 8:50 p.m.

Response to post #20: Yes, they might be contractually bound, but if a new owner wants to take off the name Busch and put on a new name, I would imagine the team would agree if there is money in it. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 25, 2008 @ 8:53 p.m.

Response to post #21: Of course these are scams done to line the pockets of owners. The owners respond by giving money to politicians. Remember John Moores and Valerie Stallings? Remember the support Moores and Spanos gave Golding when she was trying to run for Senate? Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 25, 2008 @ 8:55 p.m.

Response to post #22: It may or may not be economically justifiable exposure to the purchaser of naming rights. It depends on how much is paid, how much national TV exposure is received, etc. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 25, 2008 @ 8:59 p.m.

Response to post #23: Right you are: after a company pays big bucks for naming rights, it often falls apart. There is a good reason, often: management is interested in mixing with jockstraps and promoting itself, not the company. The managers that would pay a bundle for naming rights are often vainglorious, self-promoting. Are you surprised at the high failure rate? Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 26, 2008 @ 7:04 a.m.

Response to post #29: Remember, I hedged my statement by limiting it to companies that pay "big bucks" for naming rights. Qualcomm paid relatively little -- capitalizing on political controversy in San Diego at the time. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas Sept. 26, 2008 @ 12:34 p.m.

BTW Don-did you know Jack Murphy????

If yes, what was he like???????


paul Sept. 26, 2008 @ 12:55 p.m.

"How about rooting for the Wachovia Wealth Stealers?

What about the CitiGroup Credit Card Chargers?"

Of course we now have to add the Goldman Sachs capital gains Dodgers.


JohnnyVegas Sept. 26, 2008 @ 12:33 p.m.

In most cases, it's not that expensive, relatively speaking of course. For example, Qualcom only pays 900k per yr, ==================================

Actually the Qualcom deal was $18 million up front, which is unique- but was contracted that way to plug the difference between the $60 million dollars in lease revenue bonds that were floated to pay for the upgrade and the ultimate costs of JM Stadium upgrades, which totaled $78 million dollars.


paul Sept. 26, 2008 @ 12:51 p.m.

FYI: Forbes came out with an estimated value of $888 million for the Chargers, putting them firmly in the bottom quartile of NFL clubs. I am not sure how Spanos is able to make a go of it with only $200 million a year in revenue and a rent that has skyrocketed to $2.5 million annually. What other business could survive with it's rent being a full 1.25% of its revenue? Thank goodness the city provides free security for all of the Chargers private events, or they might not have made it this long.

The value of the Chargers has only increased twelve-fold over the last 24 years (since Spanos bought them). With that sort of under performance, how can we expect the team to stay here without an injection of half a billion in public funds for a new stadium?


inactive Sept. 26, 2008 @ 1:37 p.m.


Even more interesting about Pat Riley is that he played against Kareem in high school.


paul Sept. 26, 2008 @ 2:17 p.m.

Another interesting coincidence about Pat Riley is that Tommy Lasorda pitched for Riley's dad in the minor leagues, and used to entertain Pat Riley in the dugout during games when Pat was around 3.


Don Bauder Sept. 26, 2008 @ 2:36 p.m.

Response to post #31: I have forgotten what Qualcomm paid and over what length of time, but I do remember that it was a very low sum -- something like $18 million over several years. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 26, 2008 @ 2:37 p.m.

Response to post #32: Yes, I believe that's how it went down. Or you're close, anyway. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Sept. 26, 2008 @ 2:40 p.m.

Response to post #33: Yes, I knew Murphy. His office was close to mine -- perhaps even next to mine, at one point. I thought he was a real gentleman. In his columns, he would keep repeating, "It's only a game," in reference to sports events, no matter how seemingly momentous. He kept things in perspective. Best, Don Bauder


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!