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Miami-Dade County asks to end a naming rights deal with FTX

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One place reeling from the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange company FTX is Miami. Last year, FTX signed a $130-million deal to put its name and logo on the Miami-Dade County sports arena. As NPR's Greg Allen reports, the county is now asking a federal bankruptcy judge to terminate the deal.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Miami's NBA team, the Heat, play in FTX Arena. The company's logo still decorates the building and the team's jerseys. For months, an ad promoting the crypto company has run on all the local game broadcasts, featuring longtime Heat player Udonis Haslem.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UDONIS HASLEM: FTX has arrived in 305, so I just got one question - you in, Miami?

ALLEN: Haslem is one of several athletes and celebrities named as defendants now in a class-action lawsuit by investors which holds them culpable for promoting the failed company. This week, Miami-Dade County, the arena's owner, filed a motion in federal bankruptcy court, asking the judge to end the naming rights agreement. After FTX filed for bankruptcy, the judge issued a stay, preventing any action against the company including the termination of the sponsorship deal. Miami-Dade says continuing the agreement would cause a significant hardship and hurt efforts to find a new arena sponsor. FTX signed a 19-year deal with the county. It's already paid Miami-Dade almost $20 million. A $5.5 million payment is due January 1. The sudden collapse of a company once valued at over $30 billion, while surprising, was not totally unexpected. At a conference last year, a skeptical interviewer asked FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried if the company had the long-term stability necessary to honor a nearly 20-year deal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED: It's been a pretty good year for us, and - to the point where, frankly, we don't need to rely on the other 18 years to have the funds for this.

ALLEN: A year and a half later, many of the company's assets have disappeared, and it owes investors some $8 billion. Miami was the first city to have an arena named for a crypto company, now hoping to be the first to sever ties with a crypto company following its collapse. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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