Stanford Scores Big with Sports

Posted by: Matthew Goldstein on February 15

One can only imagine how professional golfer Vijay Singh is feeling in the wake of the news that securities regulators and other federal authorities are investigating Texas-born billionaire R. Allen Stanford’s fast-growing financial services firm.

In January, Singh, one of the world’s top-ranked golfers, inked a marketing deal with the 58-year-old financier’s Stanford Financial. In return for an undisclosed sum of cash, Singh agreed to make the Houston-based company’s golden eagle logo the main brand appearing on his apparel clothes and golf bag. Trade publication Street & Smith’s Sport Business Journal, which first reported the deal, said the arrangement is expected to last up to five years.

The deal with Singh is just another in a string of high-profile sports marketing arrangements that Stanford Financial has struck in the US and in the Caribbean island nation of Antigua, where the firm’s controversial offshore bank, Stanford International Bank, is located. Allen Stanford has used the sports marketing deals to raise the international profile of his $50 billion firm and help attract wealthy buyers for the high-yielding certificates of deposit issued by its offshore bank.

As previously reported by BusinessWeek, regulators are trying to determine how Stanford’s offshore bank can sell CDs that carry yields that are twice the market average, even as the values for many of the main assets the bank claims to invest in have cratered the past two years. Investigators also are looking into the lavish bonuses the firm doles out to brokers at the firm’s US brokerage arm, which is the bank’s primary vehicle for selling CDs.

Another thing several former and current Stanford Financial employees, all of whom asked that their names not be revealed, say investigators should look into is where the firm has come up with the money to pay for all its many sports marketing deals. They say that despite the firm’s rapid growth—assets under management and advisement have doubled in three years—the brokerage arm in the US remains a small revenue producer compared to the offshore bank in Antigua, which claims to have $8.5 billion in assets.

In fact, one key source of revenue for Stanford’s brokerage arm appears to be annual referral fees paid by the offshore bank. In 2007, the Antigua-based bank paid out $149 million in such fees, a 40% increase over the prior year. But former and current employees say that’s not enough money, given the extensive marketing deals the firm has entered into in the past few years.

Stanford Financial appears to be on quite a roll when it comes to locking up sports endorsements. Some of the recent deals it’s announced include ones with professional golf and tennis associations, US colleges and English soccer players. In Antigua, where Allen Stanford has dual citizenship and was knighted in 2006 by the island’s government, the firm is a sponsor of worldwide cricket competitions. International cricket tournaments are regularly played at Stanford Stadium on Antigua.

But maybe the glitziest sports marketing deal Stanford Financial struck came in February 2007 when the firm reached a deal with the NBA’s Miami Heat to get naming rights to one of the main entrances to the team’s home arena. The multi-year deal allowed Stanford Financial to create a so-called VIP entrance at the AmericanAirlines Arena for professional athletes, celebrities, dignitaries and the firm’s “high-level clients.’’ The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Brian Bertsch, a Stanford Financial spokesman, says “the terms of sponsorship deals are confidential.’’ But he adds that the deal with the Heat makes a lot of sense given the firm’s “strong and diverse client base in the South Florida region.’’ As for the deal with Singh, he says, “I can tell you that the deal with Vijay is not exclusive.”

The sponsorship with the Heat is part of another strategy by Stanford Financial to spend big bucks on sports in US cities where it has a big footprint. In Memphis, Tenn. the firm is a major sponsor of charitable and professional golf tournaments. In October 2007, Stanford Financial became the official sponsor of the cheerleading team at Louisiana State University, located in Baton Rouge, another big hub. A year earlier, the investment firm struck a similar arrangement with the University of Mississippi’s cheerleaders.

It’s a good bet now that all these teams, athletes and colleges that have gone into partnership with Stanford Financial, are rooting the current investigations will go nowhere.

Update

Thanks to sources and readers, I understand that Stanford Financial is a major corporate sponsor at the Toyota Center, the home of the Houston Rockets.

Reader Comments

Ed

February 15, 2009 02:04 PM

http://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/article/61077

Vijay Singh has agreed to a new deal with Stanford Financial to make the company’s logo the dominant brand on his apparel and golf bag.

The deal stands out because Singh is one of only two top-ranked golfers to sell his entire person to a non-endemic sponsor. SAP has a similar arrangement with Ernie Els, who wears the logo of the business software company on his hat and the left side of his chest.

Mark

February 15, 2009 07:34 PM

Interesting that you allude to Stanford's sports marketing, but make no mention of their philanthropy - as it seems to be tied directly to the sports.

Just a bit of "googling" will reveal Stanford is involved in several sports - golf, tennis, polo - but it seems that they are involved more heavily in hundreds of "community investment" initiatives domestically and globally- one in particular that relates to your latest Stanford angle - is their relationship with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Eagles for St Jude was evidently developed by Stanford - and through it they make a $1,000 donation to the hospital for every eagle made on the PGA and LPGA tours.

In this endorsement deal you write about, you didn't mention that Vijay Singh not only wears the logo but acts as the ambassador for Stanford's Eagles for St. Jude program. Stanford donated $1.76mm in 2007 and $2.57mm in 2008. Also these stories show that Vijay has personally donated $350,000 to the program.
I found an article in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/sports/golf/02singh.html ) about this.

He has appeared in advertisements - along with Camilo Villegas and Morgan Pressel encouraging others to join Stanford in supporting St. Jude's pediatric cancer research and treatment. (Looks like Villegas and Pressel also made personal donations to the program as well.)

The Stanford St. Jude Championship is their PGA event in Memphis that also benefits the hospital.

Matthew, I understand the relevance of your story in these stressful and trying economic times, but if any of Stanford's philanthropy stories are true, I can't imagine the real harm in balancing these positive aspects against the Madoff comparisons you are making.

Unless of course, you really are not interested in that sort of balanced news.

Kevin

February 15, 2009 08:06 PM

Vijay may not be hitting them too straight on the tour if this whole thing melts down.

This whole thing of selling off your whole persona to sponsors is just wild. I must be old school. I grew up in the NFL era where there were no corporate sponsors of things or almost none. (yes that was awhile ago)

Now it is not just the hat or the shirt but.... even the drawers?

Oh well hats off to them for making the bucks. Let's hope that the sponsors don't go bust and they lose the deal. Go Vijay!

Kevin

Archery Bows

Confi Dant

February 15, 2009 09:58 PM

Both banks coming from Antigue are crooked. But here is the real question. Why ask now about these CD when they have been around for how long? They should have been questioned along time. Watch for Offshore gambling washing through and most likely a HUGE Ponzi scheme possible bigger then Madoff

Just As Concerned

February 15, 2009 10:26 PM

Mark makes a very good point.

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Pellucid

February 16, 2009 02:32 AM

So Mark, what exactly do you want Matthew to report?

How about:

"Sanford has been known to donate at least as much, if not more, to charity than Madoff." ????

I'm sure most of the readers of a business magazine, especially those who have investments, or clients with investments in SIB will be relieved to know that if their money is gone, at least it went to a good cause.

Skeptikon

February 16, 2009 08:42 AM

You can see from the postings of Mark the kind of push back that the mainstream media is getting from Stanford Financial, its acolytes and agents. That is why the story has taken so long to develop. The original piece from Dalmady went quite a lot farther in establishing the Madoff-nature of SFG. Madoff confessed which made it easy for the MSM to jump in.
The truth is that is game over for SFG. So this pushback is only a slowing rear guard action. I think it will be a trickle-trickle story for the next 6 months.

Mark

February 16, 2009 11:03 AM

P & S,
Business magazines are supposed to be about business and I assume that means every aspect. I am not requesting that anyone brush over what is potentially a bad story, however it seems that if you are going to report about Sports and Stanford, then why not report about Philanthrophy and Stanford, as well?

I mean, is Citi's big, big ticket venue sponsorship in NY going to be yanked like the $50 mm jet or will it be left in tact because they will see branding and revenue ROI. Will not a dime of your taxpayer bailout (sorry, stimulus) package go to trick out a suite at CitiField or to purchase tickets for HNW clients?

I like the fact that skeptikon that any non-bloddthirst hang-em-in-the-street opinion is characterized as being that of an acolyte or agent.

Would it be fair if I tagged you as being a competitor or hater? Well you must be..because you are so adamant that this company is guilty.

I read daily of SEC probes and investigations. Some never materialize anything and others do. That's the beauty of having a regulatory body and a court system, right?


I am as interested in the truth as you are - but I also believe that there two, three and four sides to every story and if you are going to call yourself a journalist, then you should at least try to act like one.

I also find it interesting that you commented on my comment, but not "Just as Concerned." Is the morale high ground just a little out of your reach? Or does a code of ethics just mean nothing?

What I want in my reporting - business or otherwise - is whole story. Simple.

daniel gomez

February 16, 2009 11:45 AM

Daniel,
Este es un 2do articulo sobre el tema.
El primero ya lo bajaron.
Pero en el fondo, es sobre lo mismo la investigancion que le estan realizando a Stanford.
Saludos

Pellucid

February 16, 2009 02:02 PM

Mark,

If you want to read about Stanford's philanthropy, there's already a magazine about that. Its called "The Stanford Eagle". Business Week need not reprint whats already been published.

Also, I'm sure the LAST thing "Sir Allen" wants out is the "whole story". Right now this is just about CDs. Wait till we get to the part about "Birds"

truth

February 16, 2009 03:53 PM

Stanford Mexico: David Nanes-Prez, has a nice "allowance" of $1mm per year for private jets and private helicopter from his house to his apartment in Polanco (close to the office you see); he also purchased a $700K horse in 2004 or so to get the Stanford name out at equestrian events; also, look into 2005, there was a little matter of a Stanford Mexico HR person being caught at the Toluca airport trying to fly out in a private jet to Antigua with non-reported check deposits from customers

Stanford Venezuela: Gonzalo Tirado-ex Prez had the same $1mm per year allowance that Nanes has, except they ran Tirado out of there when his second in command (and best fried), Ruben Camero was outed for being a crook. It turned out that Camero, two other guys in accounting and an HR person conspired with a bank employee to forge tax payment recepits... they were pocketing the money.. nice! They paid a hefty fine and are still in litigation against Tirado.
SIBL 1: it's a well known fact that no one in Stanford internal audit (there's three people left now since they fired half of internal audit last week and the new director of internal audit quit the next day) was given access to the bank's investment portfolio to audit the investments.. the directives where that only a select group of people and the external audit (the now deceased Hewlett) had access to the investment portfolio
SIBL 2: It's also a well known fact within Stanford that money is taken out of SIBL and funded to the 30 or so other Stanford entities. What happens is that the other Stanford entities have payables on their books that of course they don't pay and then that just gets dropped down to equity at the end of the year.. I'd be curious to see of SIBL's investment portfolio how many of those "investments" is just money thrown at the money pit which are the other Stanford companies that don't make a dime

Ben

February 16, 2009 04:03 PM

The shills are out in full force. That if anything makes me even more suspicious. Look at agape world another recent pyramid scheme that came crashing down. Whenever news or forum posts were made about it there would always be about 10 people saying that the CEO was a great guy, donated all this money to charity, and that the high returns were all true.

Stanford appears likely to be a pyramid scheme to me. I've seen shills before and this comments section is full of them. Claiming that he's not being a good journalist by not mentioning the donates to various causes... Ironic that the shills point these out as the whole point to this article is that this company is spending too much and has too high an interest rate to be realistically making the money...

In any case i'm sure this pyramid scheme will come crashing down shortly if the gov't is investigating it... then we shall get to hear all the people complaining that they had no idea it could be a scam etc.

Mark

February 16, 2009 04:12 PM

Well Pell,
I assume you know more than you written. If so, why not share with the entire class.

Also, I still find it strange that you do not comment on "just as concerned's" comment or even something like a statement made in Bloomberg (I assume you read that "business" publication too) that also talks about the SEC investigation being instigated by ex-employees. Excerpt (Rawl said he owes Stanford Group $579,441. He said the company paid him a bonus upon his hiring in 2005 that would vest over time and that he was required to pay back when he left the company early. Tidwell owes the company $155,598, according to court papers filed by Stanford Group.)

What I read is that these employees (no offense if you are friends with these guys) were let go and contact the regulators accusing Stanford when they found out Stanford expected them to pay back what they owed.

I have not seen one ounce of evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Stanford, but I did read a blog that said evidence of illegal selling practices by the two employees has been uncovered and turned over to regulators. Can't figure out why not one reputable media outlet reported this.

I did not ask for Matthew and crew to reprint any corporate propaganda from Stanford or any other company.

Maybe I was not clear enough when I said - I am interested in the truth - as I assume you are.

Philanthropy was just a part of the sports angled being covered here in this Business publication...this article was not about CDs. So I read it and say, "well, is there a reason they put so much into sports?"

If you want to talk about the CDs then I am not sure you have much to add to this conversation other than conjecture and accusations.

Again, if you do have some inside knowledge of Stanford's evils, please share with the class - I think we all are waiting to be enlightened.

xyz123

February 16, 2009 07:46 PM

Anybody who has assets in Stanford should Sell Now, Sell Now, Get Out!

Pellucid

February 16, 2009 07:58 PM

Mark,

I find the phrase "I assume you know more than you written." interesting (if grammatically incorrect).

Am I to assume what you have written is everything you know? That's not very much.

Maybe if you had been hanging around Antigua for the last thirty years or so, you might know "more than you written" as well.

On Antigua "when one person sneezes, the whole island says "bless you"".

Mark

February 17, 2009 12:20 AM

P
I apologize for omitting a word in my response - let me restate - "I assume you know more than you have written"

As far as hanging out on that island for any amount of time, I'll pass - thanks anyway...and I guess the fact that you have hung out there for three decades might explain why your answer to my aforementioned (yet grammatically incorrect) question about your knowledge was "...not very much"

And thanks for the hospitality lesson - I assume the fellows who murdered the British couple on their honeymoon missed the Antigua & Barbuda etiquette class that day.

Mark

February 17, 2009 01:03 AM

Ben,
Like my comment to Mr. unobstructed light, I could care less if Matthew reports on the millions Stanford has poured into philanthropy or not. He wrote a story on sports and dropped it into the middle of this obviously important story.

Again, have you seen a story related to Citigroup's venue sponsorship of CitiField? Will they be forced to back out of the sponsorship because of receiving taxpayer money? Or does it not bother you at all.

I do have a couple of questions (and Pellucid check my grammar)- Do you have some inside knowledge you can share? I assume you have lost money with Stanford. Did they bilk you out of your life savings? Maybe you were fired from the pyramid??

The fervor in which you so eloquently comment leads me to believe that you have been wronged by Stanford. If so, I am sure everyone would be interested in hearing.

(Just one small request if you decide to enlighten me - try a thesaurus - Outside NYPD Blue the use of "shill" three times in two paragraphs is a little, well, boring.)

LOUIS WOOLF

February 17, 2009 03:44 PM

"THERE ARE 2 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER SEE IN YOUR LIFETIME, HOW THE MEAT INDUSTRY MAKES ITS SAUSAGE AND HOW THE INVESTMENT BANKER MAKES HIS DAILY BREAD!!!"

Steven

February 17, 2009 04:26 PM

I agree with Mark:

You all have been duped. I suggest you look at the individual behind Mr. Dalmady which brings to light the journalistic integrity of the original article “Duck Tales”. Go to https://informe24.com/noticiascandela and search the name Stanford. Try to do some investigative work instead of building upon lies……

This is a translated version of an article in Noticias Candela:

Noticias Candela – 9/1/08

Venezuela ex-banker visits press in Miami to try and clean-up his image

Weeks ago a Venezuelan ex-banker took advantage of a family trip to Miami to attend a meeting with a known Hispanic, Anti-Castro, Anti-Chavez newspaper. There he made contact with a prestigious “neogranadino” ** journalist to give him a lengthy exposition on his innocence regarding the charges of defrauding the Venezuelan National Treasury and a bank being brought against him in Venezuela. The headquarters of the bank is on the island of Antigua. The ex-banker, deep down, is attempting to convince the Venezuelan public living in Florida, because unofficially he knew that the Venezuelan Prosecutors Office will absolve him in the next few days. But it’s no secret to anyone that during and after this banker’s management of Robert Stanford’s bank, this particular financial institution was investigated by US authorities for its participation in laundering money that came from a strange origin. Finally, the interview was never published because the known newspaper didn’t believe a word the banker in question said.

Makes you wonder who pushed the article and what arrangements were made… I can tell you who is who if you can't figure it out yourself.

When you want something successful to fail you present the perception, associate it with something negative (Madoff) and watch the masses panic….. You have now created the reality….

I hope you put as much energy in recanting this story as you do posting them…
Theirs more to these bed fellows....

Alex Dalmady, I have an idea for your next story: Santa Claus.... the Next Madoff?

No Thanks

sjfone

February 18, 2009 08:49 AM

We need a baseball PR spin on this story.

steve

February 18, 2009 12:55 PM

Hope Vijay didn't have all his money wrapped up in Standford investments.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.

 

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BusinessWeek's Adrienne Carter, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and David Henry deconstruct the mysteries of high finance, Wall Street, and hedge funds for pros and ordinary investors. E-mail them directly if you've got tips about big deals, a hedge fund, or even securities industry gossip.

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