SBD/Issue 138/MLB Season Preview

Citigroup Cutting Back On Presence At Citi Field, Mets' Opener

Citigroup Has Said Many Of Its Top Execs
Will Not Attend Mets' Home Opener

Citigroup is taking many steps to "shield itself -- and its $400[M] stadium-naming deal with the Mets -- from criticism by politicians, who have called for the bank to break the 20-year deal because the bank has taken $45[B] in taxpayer money," according to Belson & Dash of the N.Y. TIMES. Citigroup said that CEO Vikram Pandit and "many of his top lieutenants would not be" at Citi Field for the Mets' April 13 home opener against the Padres. Instead, the company "plans to invite community groups, like Jackie Robinson Foundation college scholarship recipients, to sit in its two luxury suites on the Empire Level," and some bank execs will "serve as hosts." Citigroup officials are "increasingly sensitive to anything that smacks of profligate spending," and officials have "worried that if the bank takes too prominent a role at the Mets' first game, lawmakers might hijack the opening-day festivities." Execs in Citigroup's community affairs and government relations divisions have "spent the past few months discussing their plans for opening day," as they "vetted their guest list, ruled out having executives throw out the first pitch and settled on a low-key approach, given the political climate." Citigroup also has "cracked down on baseball-related expenses," as company managers "have been told to be vigilant about dispensing free tickets." Belson & Dash noted, "Besides hosting community groups on opening day, Citigroup plans to fill its corporate boxes with members of several other groups, including the Harlem Children Zone and the United Way, at other games this season" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/5). CNBC.com's Darren Rovell writes it is "time to let Citi execs sit in the seats they already paid for and to use their two luxury boxes to try to help them become a little bit more healthy." Now that the ballpark has "opened with your name on it, the public does want you to do business in it" (CNBC.com, 4/6).

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