NFL Football: Giants, Jets end naming-rights talks with Allianz

Decision comes after two days of largely negative reaction to the possibility of a deal with company that insured facilities at Auschwitz.

nfl football giants 88 (photo credit:)
nfl football giants 88
(photo credit: )
The Giants and the Jets announced on Friday that they had ended talks with Allianz, a German-based insurance company with connections to the Third Reich, about selling the naming rights to the $1.6 billion stadium they are building in the Meadowlands. The decision came after two days of largely negative reaction to the possibility of a deal with Allianz, which insured facilities at Auschwitz and other concentration camps, and which deprived many Jewish customers of the proceeds from their insurance policies. Allianz had been seeking a deal to put its name on the stadium being built by both teams. The deal could have been worth an estimated $30 million a year. The stadium is scheduled to be completed for the 2010 season. Allianz once insured Nazi death camps and refused to pay life insurance claims to its Jewish clients-instead granting the proceeds to the Nazis. The proposed deal was criticized by Jewish organizations, Holocaust survivors and football fans who said seeing the company's name emblazoned on the stadium would be a constant reminder of the company's ties to the Holocaust. The New Meadowlands Stadium LLC, the company building the stadium, issued a statement Friday saying they were no longer in discussions with Allianz for a naming rights partnership. "We are continuing discussions with other potential partners for the new stadium and look forward to the summer 2010 opening of this new icon for our region," the statement read. Allianz spokesman Peter Lefkin confirmed that talks were off. Allianz officials argued that the company had atoned for its former support of the Third Reich by supporting reparations programs and working to become a responsible company and good corporate citizen. They said they should no longer be held accountable in 2008 for the company's record during World War II. Steven Korenblat, a St. Louis-based attorney who represented Citigroup in its naming rights deal for the New York Mets' new stadium, noted that other German companies such as Daimler-Benz and Deutsche Bank that had connections to the Third Reich have higher profiles in the US than Allianz, though he said he was not aware of either purchasing stadium naming rights here. "I don't think this is a made-up controversy," Korenblat said of the Allianz negotiations. "For those who have strong feelings about it, it's genuine. My view is that we should continue to remember the past and continue to speak the truth, but at the same time we should allow Germany and its corporate citizens to move forward." The reaction to Allianz's talks with the teams reflects the continuing debate about whether the German government and German companies have given victims of the Holocaust and their families adequate apologies and restitution. "Allianz has gone a long way to atone, and one can forgive, but one cannot forget," said Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. He said the teams' decision to end the talks with Allianz "indicates they are listening to their neighborhood, to their families, to the families of World War II survivors." Foxman added that he found it difficult to understand that "somebody didn't realize this wasn't business as usual" when the Giants and the Jets began to negotiate with Allianz. The Anti-Defamation League has successfully lobbied on behalf of Allianz and other German insurers to reduce the impact of Congressional legislation that would have reopened the process of paying restitution to Jewish policy holders and their families. Leo Rechter, a Holocaust survivor from Vienna who lives in Jamaica, Queens, said he was relieved that Allianz's name would not adorn the stadium. He said the activities of the German insurers during the Third Reich were still preventing Jews and their survivors from fully collecting on valid policies - or from finding them at all. "Allianz only paid out $12 million," he said, referring to restitution provided over the past decade by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims. "That's peanuts. Some economics estimate their true liabilities run into the billions."