The National Basketball Assn. (NBA) says FedEx Corp. has every right to buy the name to the new arena proposed for downtown Memphis, but it can’t pay the league to name the team. In response, the transportation and logistics company reduced its multimillion-dollar role in trying to attract the Vancouver Grizzlies to its hub city.
Joel Litvin, executive vp of legal and business affairs for the NBA, said FedEx offered Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley $100 million if he’d move his team to Memphis and rename it the “Express.”
The company had considered approval of a corporate nickname a “long shot,” said Mike Glenn, FedEx executive vp of market development and corporate communications. FedEx, in a separate proposal, still plans to buy naming rights the arena. The company is paying $205 million for the naming rights to the new home of the NFL's Washington Redskins, known as FedEx Field, in Landover, MD.
Glenn wouldn't confirm that FedEx was ready to hand over $100 million to rename the team. He also did not address how the company's total financial offer would be affected by team naming rights being unavailable.
J.R. "Pitt" Hyde, leader of the local NBA “pursuit team,” said the FedEx decision on a team name will not hinder overall efforts to attract the Grizzlies.
For most of its corporate life, FedEx was called Federal Express, and its major subsidiary is named FedEx Express.Despite FedEx’s efforts, they were not the only company that tried to lure the Grizzlies and use the team as a potential marketing tool.
Louisville, KY became a front-runner for the team in March, when Tricon Global Restaurants Inc., the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, said it would pay Heisley millions for naming rights. KFC wanted to have the team renamed the Colonels – the name of Louisville's former American Basketball Association franchise – and to call the proposed new arena the KFC Bucket.