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Can Citigroup keep Mets ballpark naming rights?

As Citigroup totters on the edge of insolvency, negotiates a government bailout and announces 52,000 layoffs, some question whether a $400-million purchase of naming rights to the new Mets ballpark is appropriate.For the shareholders and employees of Citigroup, these are tough times: a stock collapse last week erased more than half the value of the beleaguered firm. And after announcing intentions to lay off 52,000 employees, the firm then engaged in weekend negotiations with the U.S. Treasury in a last-second attempt to provide working capital for the financial giant.

And in the midst of this all, one constant emerged: firm spokespeople said they had no intention to back down from the 20-year, $400-million purchase of naming rights to Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets.

True, the stock price is up today after a $20-billion bailout was tentatively announced. But that doesn’t address the larger issue for many: should government resources be used to prop up a firm that makes financial commitments like the naming rights to a ballpark?

We’re guessing that topic will be debated in coming weeks. Check out Anthony Rieber’s excellent column for a primer on the arguments to come. Darren Rovell throws in his two-cents’ worth.

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