FTX still on the hook for $16.5 million after Miami naming rights deal evaporates

November 15, 2022 at 2:01 AM GMT+8
FTX signed a $135 million naming rights deal last year to display its name on the Miami Heat’s home stadium.
Felix Mizioznikov— iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

The FTX name was supposed to be affixed to the Heat’s arena in Miami until 2040 as part of a $135 million naming rights deal, but just hours after the crypto exchange declared bankruptcy on Friday, the agreement was off and the company’s logo was being taken down.

Because of a clause in the contract struck with Miami-Dade County, which owns what previously was called American Airlines Arena, FTX still must pay three years of contract fees, which comes out to $16.5 million, according to CoinDesk. FTX had already forked over $14 million when the contract was signed last year.

The Miami Heat and Miami-Dade County said in a joint statement that the news of FTX’s unraveling was "extremely disappointing."

"Miami-Dade County and the Miami HEAT are immediately taking action to terminate our business relationships with FTX, and we will be working together to find a new naming rights partner for the arena," the Miami Heat tweeted.

The tearing up of a 19-year contract is just the beginning of FTX’s problems in the sports world.

FTX, which was founded in 2019, quickly rose to prominence as one of the world’s biggest crypto exchanges and poured millions of dollars into advertisements with Major League Baseball, Formula 1, and e-sports.

In June, the firm struck a deal with MLB and the MLB Players Association that gave FTX access to player highlights for content creation. FTX also became "MLB’s first-ever umpire uniform patch partner" with the umps wearing the company’s logo on their shirts. Neither the league nor the players association has commented publicly since FTX crashed, and neither responded to requests for comment from Fortune.

Other sporting partners, by comparison, were quick to respond. On the same day FTX filed for bankruptcy, TMZ Sports reported that the Formula 1 team Mercedes-AMG Petronas had suspended its partnership with the bankrupt exchange and removed FTX’s logo from drivers’ uniforms and vehicles.

On Sunday, the FTX logo was nowhere to be seen on the Mercedes team as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton took the top two spots at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

FTX’s bankruptcy has put several more sports partnerships on the chopping block, including a $17.5 million deal with the University of California at Berkeley for stadium naming rights, a $210 million deal with e-sports team TSM to rename as TSM FTX, and partnerships with several professional athletes.

Seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and his ex-wife, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, stepped into advisory roles in FTX last year and took an undisclosed equity stake in the company. The exchange also had deals with Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, tennis star Naomi Osaka, and all-star baseball player Shohei Ohtani.

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