Toyota's New Center

Naming rights to sports facilities usually go to local companies: there's Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.; Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco; and America West Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., among others. So why is Toyota, a Japanese company with U.S. offices in Torrance, Calif., the nameplate for the new Toyota Center arena in Houston? For one 7-ft. 5-in. reason: Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets star from Shanghai. Toyota opened a new plant in Tianjin, China, and hopes millions of Yao fans will soon be Corolla fans.

The company will pay $100 million over 20 years for the rights to...

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