It hasn’t been a good couple of days for Citigroup. After being publicly chastised by President Obama for seeking to buy a $50 million private jet after receiving a $45 billion bailout from the government, the ugly controversy surrounding its deal for the naming rights to the new Mets stadium has reared its head once again.
This time, it’s everybody’s favorite inquisitor, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), along with representative Ted Poe (R-Texas), both of whom sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner requesting that the deal between the Mets and Citigroup be “dissolved.”
In an interview yesterday, Kucinich said the financial behemoth is in no position to lay out cash to have its name on the Queens stadium. “It’s just totally unacceptable that Citigroup should be able to spend $400 million in naming rights when they’re the recipients of a massive federal bailout,” he said.
Kucinich and Poe wrote that Citigroup’s financial footing “has changed drastically” since the naming rights deal was struck in 2006. The agreement calls for Citigroup to pay $400 million over 20 years for the naming rights.
The Mets “are fully committed to our contract with Citigroup,” said Jay Horowitz, the team’s spokesman.
UmpBump readers were put to a vote as to what Citigroup and the Mets should do last time this little pickle was tickled, and the feeling (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) was that the stadium name ought to in some way reflect the fact that it was subsidized with public funds.
The sticky part about this whole mess is the inconvenient truth that Citigroup has yet to pay the bulk of the agreed upon amount. So while it continues to operate heaviy sedated with tax-payer money, it will be under contractual obligation to pay the Mets for naming rights for the next 20 years.
Given the recent, uhm, lapse in judgment about its ability to manage its financial priorities, however, Citigroup is in less of a position to just brush this PR fiasco away (much like the Mets did), and the truth of the matter is that as public outcry continues to grow, the Mets would rather have a packed nameless stadium, than an empty Citifield.