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Legislator hails Boca Raton for ending golf sponsor ties; but it didn’t

A state legislator called a news conference for Monday at Boca Raton City Hall, to thank the city for ending its golf tournament sponsorship deal with a German firm that has uncomfortable ties to the Holocaust.

The problem: Boca Raton didn’t do it.

And the private operators of the Allianz Championship tournament said Allianz SE’s departure was unrelated to the controversy.

State Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, sent the announcement Thursday. She said she’d meet the press Monday morning, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, accompanied by representatives of the Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA, along with Holocaust survivors and relatives.

Over the years, groups have picketed the Boca Raton tournament and other Allianz-sponsored events. They claim Allianz, a Nazi collaborator during World War II, failed to pay about $2 billion in claims owed to the survivors of Jews who bought life insurance policies and then were sent to extermination camps.

“The community sent a clear message,” Slosberg said Thursday in her announcement. “The city was right to respond.”

But city spokeswoman Chrissy Gibson said Thursday neither city administrators nor elected officials responded to anything.

“The city of Boca Raton did not terminate a relationship with Allianz,” Gibson said.

The city is a sponsor, contributing $375,000, but the tournament is operated by a private outfit, Tequesta-based ProLinks Sports.

Tournament director Scott Reid said Thursday Allianz “chose not to renew” its contract, which spans the 11 years the tournament has operated. The decision is effective after this year’s tournament, which took place Feb. 10-12 at Broken Sound. He declined to reveal dollar amounts or say why Allianz pulled out, except to say it was a business decision.

ProSports says it is actively seeking a new title sponsor for the 2018 tournament, scheduled for Feb. 5-11.

Slosberg provided an email Boca Raton City Council Member Robert Weinroth sent her, alerting her that Allianz was out. Weinroth confirmed Thursday the city had nothing to do with it.

“The organizers are the ones that find the title sponsors. We are not part of that process,” he said. “But the fact that we will no longer have Allianz at least made our residents who have been upset about the relationship between the city and Allianz — at least removed that as an issue.”

Slosberg said she still believes that the city government influenced ProLinks to pressure Allianz to go, although she did not provide any evidence of that.

“Regardless of the reason, I’m glad they’re not sponsoring the tournament next year,” she said.

She did issue a revised release late Thursday removing references to the city acting. Instead, it said Monday’s news conference will “applaud the termination of the Allianz SE-sponsorship for a golf tournament in the City of Boca Raton after years of protests by Holocaust survivors and their supporters.’

Gibson also said Thursday Slosberg hadn’t yet contacted the city to ask for the space for Monday’s event.

Spokespersons for Allianz who could respond to the sponsorship couldn’t be reached Thursday afternoon.

Allianz, one of the largest insurers in the world, insured more than 800,000 Jews during World War II. At the same time, Allianz insured many aspects of the Third Reich, including the Auschwitz death camp. The firm says it has settled more than 48,000 insurance accounts totaling more than $300 million.

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