It’s unclear what effect the Securities and Exchange Commission charging R. Allen Stanford with fraud this week will have on the dozens of sports sponsorships held by Stanford Financial Group, including several prominent ones in South Florida.
Stanford Financial’s name covers the VIP lobby at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. It’s the title sponsor of the No. 1 field at the International Polo Club of Palm Beach and one of the host sponsors at the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne. The company has sponsor relationships with prominent golfers, including Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas and Boca Raton’s Morgan Pressel.
The SEC’s complaint alleges Stanford was involved in an $8 billion scheme centered on certificates of deposits that promised unusually high rates. The SEC froze the assets of Houston-based Stanford Group Co.; Stanford Capital Management, also of Houston; and Antigua-based Stanford International Bank.
It doesn’t appear that Stanford Financial Group, which is the arm of the company with the sports sponsorships, is a target of the current investigation, but that doesn’t mean those sponsorships aren’t in potential danger. Team and sporting event officials contacted said it’s too early to say, and they’re waiting to learn more, too.
The Heat is believed to have a multi-year deal with Stanford Financial at AmericanAirlines Arena. For now, it appears the entrance lobby the company sponsors will continue to bear Stanford’s name. Eric Woolworth, Heat president of business operations, said: “We don’t know anything, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment.”
At the International Polo Club of Palm Beach, Stanford has been a sponsor of “Stanford Field” for three years and recently renewed for another three years, starting this year. “They paid up through this season, 2009, which ends in April,” said John A. Wash, president of club operations.
“Just as things progress in the news, we’re watching it closely,” Wash said. “We have sponsors come and go all the time. We hate to see this situation happen. We’re waiting to see how it all plays out.”
But Wash assured “polo will continue.”
He said sports don’t have control over corporations’ business operations. He reminded that the Houston Astros ballpark was originally known as Enron Field, until the Enron collapsed and it’s now known as Minute Maid Park.
At Crandon Park Tennis Center on Key Biscayne, Stanford Financial is now in its fifth year as a “host” sponsor for the Sony Ericsson Open. The company has court signage, display booths, a hospitality suite.
Tournament Director Adam Barrett said he isn’t sure what the SEC investigation will mean for the sponsorship, which runs another two or three more years.
“We hope it means very little, not as much for the tournament, but for anyone who has investment dollars with Stanford,” Barrett said adding the tournament will not be dramatically affected should Stanford’s contract end early.
“There’s not much we can do about it, we can’t really control the outcome of it,” Barrett said. “It’s more about you hope it’s not true, not because of our sponsorship, but because as a country, we can’t use another major fraud or fallout from our financial sector. That’s the bigger picture than our tennis balls going over a net.”