The NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants are in the mist of naming right negotiations for their new 1.3 billion dollar stadium slated to open in 2010. The rights are expected to bring the teams between 20-30 million dollars per year. While involving big bucks there normally would be just a behind the scenes ho-hum series of negotiations culminating with a press-release, sports page coverage and maybe a low key obligatory news conference. The teams can only dream in retrospect that this could have been the scenario
The leading contender for the naming rights was Allianz. Allianz is a Germany based Insurance Company. Allianz was founded in 1890. It is the largest financial service provider in the world. Allianz already has has it name on Allianz Arena in its home city of Munich. It was home to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Allianz also has significant historical ties to Nazi Germany. This is nothing new in terms of Nazi history. Many currently reputable companies based in Europe played either direct or tangential roles in providing materials and services to the Nazis in aid of the war machine. Allianz falls into a unique group. Their business relationships with the Nazis were not related to advancing the war effort. Their services directly aided in advancing “The Final Solution”. The genocide of all Jews in Europe and ultimately the world. According to noted historian Gerald Feldman, Allianz had given money owed to Jewish beneficiaries of their life insurance policies to the Nazi authorities instead. They also insured the construction of concentration camps. Feldman has written that Allianz sold life insurance policies to Jews with knowledge that Jews were being murdered in mass. They knew there would be very little if any chance of ever collecting. Allianz allegedly further collaborated with the Nazis to hide the fraud being committed on the Jews from the outside world portraying what Feldman termed “business as usual”. As an interesting media side-note the Allianz ties to Nazi Germany was dramatized in a Law and Order Episode entitled ” Blood Money“.
The the thought of driving past or entering “Allianz Stadium” with the ghosts and memories of 6 million murdered Jews emanating from it created an uproar not only the Jewish community but many local New York and New Jersesy community leaders. Allianz has responded to previous complaints and accusations by stating that it has made restitution to Holocaust victims and has therefore atoned for its sins. It should not be held further accountable in its business dealings. There are those that disagree. Elan Steinberg, the former director of the World Jewish Congress said Allianz still owes Jewish beneficiaries some $2 billion dollars. Steinberg is notable for negotiating the 1998 multi-billion dollar global Holocaust settlement from Swiss and other international banks and business interests holding assets belonging to Holocaust victims. Interestingly Allianz allegedly held up insurance payments to 9-11 victims, finally paying when confronted with threatened government action.
In the end the Stadium Authority decided that the public relations disaster barreling towards them like a tidal wave and the collateral good will and public relations damage that would ensue was not worth taking the highest bidder. There were certainly millions to be had from other interested parties with less sordid corporate pasts. The Sports Authority issued a brief statement that negotiations with Allianz for naming rights had terminated.
Was Allianz treated unfairly? As a descendant of Russian Jews I am acutely aware of the historical, moral and personal connection that Jews feel to the Holocaust and intentional an unintentional actions that diminish the inhuman magnitude of horror that it represents. I believe the Stadium authority did the right thing in rejecting the Allianz bid. The bid should not have been rejected because of what Allianz represents as a company. They represent a successful financial services company trying to maximize their exposure and profits. Good for the Giants and Jets. Good for Allianz. Good for the local economy. Sound business sense. Allianz should not have gotten the bid because of what the name “Allianz” represents as a “historical brand” Whether they like it or not the Allianz historical brand presently carries a significant current Holocaust taint to it. As long as that taint exists to the brand Allianz has a responsibility to wield their brand with sensitivity and restraint. Companies have a duty to consider the historical taint when doing business with Allianz. When history and world opinion finally dictates that the Allianz historical brand has been cleansed to the extent to it ho longer carries the ghost of 6 million dead, then and only they can should they expand the marketing of that brand to areas bringing the public conscience into play as compared to the individual consumer purchase.
There will certainly be a day when the Allianz brand is cleansed and ready to re-enter the business world marketing to the public consumer and the public conciense without guilt or a historical flogging. Today is not that day.