$20M hurdle – New benefactor sought

After backing U.S. teams in the Olympic Games for 20 years, Merrill Lynch has opted not to renew its sponsorship for the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, The New York Times reported Oct. 29.

Olympic officials are looking for a replacement for the $20 million sponsorship, a big challenge in the face of consolidation of financial industries, the Times said.

Some brokerage firms share a corporate parent with a bank, credit-card firm or insurer, each of which is a separate sponsorship category.

John Hancock Financial Services and Visa International are global Olympic sponsors, and Bank of America is the official bank of the 2002 event.

Olympic officials hope rival Charles Schwab can replace Merrill, but Schwab seems happy sponsoring just the U.S. ski team, the Times said.

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