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Seoul baseball club nearing sponsorship deal with Japanese financial firm

All Headlines 11:30 October 23, 2015

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean baseball club said Friday it is nearing the conclusion of a sponsorship deal with a Japanese financial company with apparent money-lending ties, a move that could deal a major PR blow to the cash-strapped team.

The Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said they have decided to part ways with Nexen Tires, their naming sponsor since February 2010, and they're in talks with J Trust Group.

"We're close to a deal but nothing is set in stone yet," a club official said, denying an earlier South Korean media report that the Heroes had already reached an agreement worth 10 billion won (US$8.87 million) per year.

The official added that J Trust Group, despite its public image, has no connection with money-lending.

"It's actually not a loan shark; it's a non-banking financial institution," he said. "And that is why we began negotiations with J Trust Group."

The Heroes, which joined the KBO in 2008 in place of the bankrupt Hyundai Unicorns, have been the league's only club without corporate ownership. The Heroes have survived by selling naming rights to the club, first to the local company Woori Tobacco.

The Heroes were without a sponsor for about 18 months and were simply called the Heroes, before Nexen Tires stepped in.

Once the deal with J Trust Group is finalized, the club will likely be renamed J Trust Heroes or JT Heroes.

J Trust Group faced some heat in South Korea last month when popular actress Ko So-young severed commercial ties with the group's money-lending subsidiaries amid outcry.

J Trust Group has denied its money-lending connection, saying, "We have 26 subsidiaries all over Asia, but not one is doing the money-lending business we are accused of."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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