Citigroup Pays $34 Million For Beantown Naming Rights

Citigroup, looking to reinforce its image as a retail bank, has paid $34 million to put its name on the Wang Center for Performing Arts in Boston for 20 years. This is just weeks after opening a prototype financial services branch in nearby Copley Square that includes customer service representatives from its brokerage division Smith Barney.

Citigroup chairman and CEO Charles Prince, under pressure to hold costs and increase profits, has insisted that investing in retail operations such as branches is necessary to fuel future revenue growth. In addition to building new facilities like those in Boston, Citigroup has said it will increase its branch network by adding ATMs outside some of its 2,000 CitiFinancial consumer-loan facilities.

"Citigroup has had a large customer base in Boston for many years through its various business units, and we are now proud to add our world-class retail bank," said Maura Markus, president of Citibank North America. "We look forward to a long commitment to the Wang Center and to this great city."



Citigroup has said it plans to open 100 new branch locations over the next year--mostly in the Northeast, with at least 30 in the Boston area. It estimates it currently serves 1 million customers in Boston through its brokerage, mortgage and other divisions.

The nation's largest bank trails nearest rival Bank of America in the retailing banking sector. Bank of America, based in Charlotte, S.C., has 5,760 branches compared to Citibank's 921--which ranks it 14 among retail banks in the U.S. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo has some 3,200 branches while No. 3 Wachovia Corp. has some 3,180, according to figures compiled by SNL Financial, a market researcher in Charlottesville, Va.

Citigroup will make payments for the next 15 years, which should sustain the nonprofit performing arts center in the same way that Dr. An Wang did when he contributed money 25 years ago to rebuild what was then called the Metropolitan Center. The naming rights had been shopped around for some time. Following BofA's buyout of Fleet Financial Corp., naming rights to the Fleet Center (home to the Boston Celtics and Bruins) were sold to TD Banknorth of Portland, Maine, for $120 million for 20 years. (It ranks No. 19 among retail banks with 683 branches.)

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