POLITICS OF SPORTS BUSINESS
Had all gone according to the original plan, the first "American" football game, which will be played on Monday night at the new Meadowlands Stadium between the East Rutherford-based New York Giants and the Florham Park-based New York Jets, would have had the name Allianz attached to the stadium. The Munich, Germany-based financial services and insurance company was negotiating with the Giants-Jets stadium management group to be the naming rights partner of the new East Rutherford stadium but those talks ended on September 9, 2008 after news broke that the two football teams were negotiating a deal with the Munich company which had ties to the Third Reich and Nazi Germany.
According to some reports, Allianz was willing to pay as much as $30 million annually for the naming rights. The Giants-Jets group is still looking for a naming rights partner in what has become an extremely difficult financial environment. Many companies don't see the value in purchasing naming rights to a stadium. The one-year old Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas still does not have a corporate naming sponsor which is a bit surprising in that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is hosting the 2011 Super Bowl next February and the Super Bowl is a prime advertising vehicle.
The Giants-Jets stadium will host the 2014 Super Bowl.
It is not unusual for a non-American company to buy the naming rights of an American arena or stadium. LM Ericcson, a telecommunications company based in Sweden, bought the naming rights for the new Charlotte football stadium in a ten-year, $25 million deal that started in 1996.
Last January, the Canadian insurance company Sun Life Financial signed a five-year, $20 million agreement with Miami Dolphins owner (and New York-New Jersey real estate magnate) Stephen Ross for the naming rights to the Dolphins' Broward County stadium. Sun Life, which is Canada's third-largest insurer, was looking to increase the company's visibility in the United States and probably did well on the deal as the Sun Life name and signage was plastered all over last February's Super Bowl broadcast. That exposure was more important than the other aspects of the deal which included having the Sun Life name printed on tickets to sporting events at the stadium.
Two other Canadian financial institutions have their names affixed on arenas in the United States. In 2005, TD Bank bought the naming rights to the arena that houses the National Basketball Association's Boston Celtics and the National Hockey league's Boston Bruins The building is called TD Banknorth Garden. Royal Bank reached an agreement with the Carolina Hurricanes ownership in 2002 for the naming rights to the Raleigh, North Carolina arena. The venue is known as the RBC Center.
If the New Jersey Nets franchise does ever move to Brooklyn, the building will be called Barclay's Center. The England-based Barclay's does not have any bank branches in the United States but the bank does have a number of global locations.
The Giants-Jets/Allianz deal was stopped when Jewish groups and holocaust survivors learned of the talks. The Giants-Jets negotiations brought to light Allianz's history with Adolf Hitler and Nazi, Germany. A little history lesson needs to be told to understand the opposition to Allianz putting the company name on the sides of the East Rutherford stadium.
In 1993, Allianz's CEO Henning Schulte-Noelle decided to take a look at Allianz's corporate history and research the role the company might have played between 1933 and 1945 with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi government. By 1997, Schulte-Noelle found the man he needed to do the research in at Cal-Berkeley, Dr. Gerald Feldman, who was the director of the University of California's Center for German and European Studies. Dr. Feldman had spent a good chunk of his adult life studying all aspects of German history. Dr. Feldman's 2001 book, "Allianz and the German Insurance Business, 1933-1945," explained how Allianz had given money owed to Jewish life insurance policy beneficiaries to the Nazi government.
Among Dr. Feldman's findings were records which showed that Allianz insured the property and personnel of the Auschwitz extermination camp, as well as the Dachau concentration camp. Additionally, Allianz also insured the engineers working at the IG Farben Company, the company that oversaw the manufacture of the Zyklon B cyanide gas used at concentration camps to kill Jews and other victims. Allianz provided insurance throughout the war to Nazis who had seized valuables from those victims captured and forced into the camps.
Dr. Feldman also related that Allianz Chief Executive Kurt Schmitt was Hitler's Economy Minister from June 1933 until January 1935, and found a picture of Schmitt wearing an SS-Oberführer's uniform. Allianz General Director Eduard Hilgard led the "Reich Association for Private Insurance" and helped create and enforce termination and refusal policies to pay off any life insurance policies issued to Jews. Beneficiary payments went directly sent to the Nazis instead.
Feldman said in a 2001 interview that is posted on the Allianz website that he had "unrestricted freedom" to do independent research.
Allianz had hoped that the company would have been able to do business in the United States like other German companies that had ties to Hitler and Nazi Germany and pleaded that the present day company leaders had nothing to do with the Nazi era. Allianz and four other German insurance companies were key backers of the "International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims" and Allianz was a founder of the German Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future." Dr. Feldman's findings in the book along with Allianz taking responsibility for being involved with the Third Reich did nothing to sway Holocaust survivors who were aghast at the thought of Allianz putting the company moniker on the East Rutherford football stadium.
Allianz has never dabbled much into the sports world. The company has the naming rights for the football (soccer) stadium in Munich that houses two clubs, FC Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga and TSV Munich 1860 of the Second Bundesliga. The company also owns Gornik Zabrze, a Poland football club and Allianz also is a sponsor of the AT and T Williams Formula 1 racing team.
On Monday, Allianz joined Adidas, BMW, Lufthansa and Finanzgruppe in financial support of Munich's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The 1972 Munich Summer Games was the scene of killing of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in the Olympic Village by the Palestinian Black September terrorist cell. Annecy, France, Munich and PyeongChang, South Korea have moved to the final round of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games bid process. The 2018 Games winning bid will be announced by the International Olympic Committee in July 2011. Munich is attempting to become the first city to host a Summer and Winter Olympics.
There will be no corporate name on the Giants-Jets Stadium on Monday night. Naming rights deals have been dwindling although the Jacksonville Jaguars National Football League franchise did get a five-year, $16.6 million contract signed with EverBank at the end of July. That is slightly more than $3 million a year and stipend won't cover the annual contract of a good offensive lineman. The EverBank-Jaguars deal nearly fell through because the city of Jacksonville was entitled to 25 percent of the money. On Tuesday night, the Jacksonville City Council voted 14-3 to give up the approximate $4 million that the city was contractually due and took one for the financially troubled team. City leaders are afraid that Wayne Weaver will move his franchise because there is a lack of support for the team and every million helps. Presumably the Giants-Jets business arrangement is still looking for someone ready to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars in naming rights to help pay down the stadium debt. Jerry Jones is still looking for a big payday in Arlington, Texas for Cowboys Stadium. Companies have tightened spending which is why the East Rutherford football venue is called the New Meadowlands Stadium.