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Charges Filed Against Stanford Financial Group

The charges relate to selling bank CDs that yield twice the market rate. This bears a resemblance to Madoff, but on a smaller scale -- the SEC claims that $8 billion (rather than $50 billion) is missing. What's interesting from a sports perspective is the array of sponsorship deals that Stanford pursued.

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 [Vijay] 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.

These strike me as a bit bizarre and intriguing: did sponsoring cheerleaders bring in an unsophisticated clientele? Regardless, the Stanford? St. Jude golf tournament's financial status would appear to be in jeopardy. Vijay's game might get a little yippy too.