When a company overpays for the naming rights to a government-subsidized sports stadium, it's almost always a bad sign. Citigroup paid a reported $400 million in 2006 to call the new Mets baseball stadium Citi Field; Citi shares since then have tanked. Barclays paid $200 million for rights to put its name on the arena in Brooklyn where the Nets basketball team will play, an arena built with the use of state power to seize private homes through eminent domain. Now the CEO, chairman, and chief operating officer of Barclays have all resigned amid a scandal over fixing, or attempting to fix, the London interbank offered rate.
It was bad enough that the city and state used eminent domain and subsidies to build this arena in partnership with a politically well connected developer. I'm sure there are plenty of fine people who work at Barclays (I know at least one of them), but there's something distasteful about naming the arena — they're even renaming the Atlantic Avenue subway station beneath the arena, or at least re-signing it — for a company whose name is now associated with such misbehavior. It's a certain peculiarity of the Bloomberg administration — if you are a soda company or a cigarette manufacturer, they demonize you, but if you are a financial services company, they name a stadium after you. This Web site is not in the camp that wants to demonize the entire financial services industry. And if it were an arena or stadium built entirely with private money, that would be a different situation — the owner could name it whatever the owner wanted to. In this case, there's a subway station supported by tax dollars being renamed after a British bank some of whose employees seem to have engaged in highly questionable behavior.