Wilpons: Mets To Explore Partial Sale Of Team

NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Under pressure because of a lawsuit from the trustee trying to reclaim money for the victims of the Bernard Madoff swindle, the New York Mets’ owners said Friday they are exploring a partial sale of the team that would raise several hundred million dollars.

Mets owner Fred Wilpon and his son, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, retained Steve Greenberg of Allen & Co., a Mets director, a former deputy baseball commissioner and a son of Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, to head the search for investors.

Fred Wilpon said the Mets were looking to sell a non-controlling interest of 20 to 25 percent and he did not envision giving up control of the franchise, which his family first bought into in 1980.

Court-appointed trustee Irving Picard said the Mets made nearly $48 million in Madoff’s scheme. He said the Mets Limited Partnership originally invested about $523 million, but eventually withdrew about $571 million from the accounts.

In December, Picard sued dozens of entities affiliated with the Wilpons, the family real estate company Sterling Equities and Saul Katz, Fred Wilpon’s brother-in-law and partner in the Mets and Sterling. The lawsuit in federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan is under seal, and it’s not clear what the Wilpons’ potential liability is.

“Because of that uncertainty, it is prudent in my view and reasonable and appropriate for us to explore our options,” Fred Wilpon said during a conference call. “It is the right thing to do from a business perspective.”

In a statement issued before the conference call, the Wilpons said they would explore “the addition of one or more strategic partners.”

The Wilpons have been involved in settlement talks with Picard, who did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Fred Wilpon said his family will remain the Mets principal and controlling owners. Jeff Wilpon said it was possible the team would recapitalize rather than sell a stake.

At a news conference in October, when general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel were fired, Fred Wilpon insisted the Mets were not impacted financially by swindle by Madoff, who before the Ponzi scheme became public was considered by the Wilpons to be a family friend. At the time, the Wilpons said they weren’t looking to sell a stake

“Things have changed … with the lawsuit,” Jeff Wilpon said.

Fred Wilpon said the suit did not affect “the cash flow or the liquidity of the Mets in any major way at all” but said it created uncertainly about Sterling. Jeff Wilpon said the family could leverage its stake in the Mets, creating the possibility the money could be injected into Sterling.

Jeff Wilpon said a partial sale would “make sure the team is healthy so that we can put the proper players on the field” and create “flexibility” for new general manager Sandy Alderson.

The Mets finished 2010 with baseball’s sixth-highest payroll at $127.6 million in going 79-83. They have not attempted to sign any top free-agents, instead adding players such as left-hander Chris Capuano ($1.5 million) and right-hander Chris Young ($1.1 million).

Wilpon and his family bought Nelson Doubleday’s 50 percent of the Mets in 2002 after the team was appraised at $391 million. Last spring, Forbes estimated the Mets were worth $858 million, third in baseball behind the New York Yankees ($1.6 billion) and the Boston Red Sox ($870 million).

Doubleday & Co., a publisher, bought the Mets in 1980 from the family of founding owner Joan Payson for $21.1 million, with the company owning 95 percent of the team and Wilpon owning 5 percent.

When Doubleday & Co. was sold to the media company Bertelsmann AG in 1986, the publisher sold its shares of the team for $80.75 million to Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners.

The Wilpons said their shares in the SNY network will not be part of this transaction.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

How much control, if any, will the Wilpons give up? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

Statement from the Mets:

Fred Wilpon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Mets, and Jeff Wilpon, Chief Operating Officer of the New York Mets, issued the following statement:

As Sterling Equities announced in December, we are engaged in discussions to settle a lawsuit brought against us and other Sterling partners and members of our families by the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy. We are not permitted to comment on these confidential negotiations while they are ongoing.

However, to address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number of potential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners. To explore this, we have retained Steve Greenberg, a Managing Director at Allen & Company, as our advisor.

Regardless of the outcome of this exploration, Sterling will remain the principal ownership group of the Mets and continue to control and manage the team’s operations. The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years and that is not going to change.

As we have said before, we are totally committed to having the Mets again become a World Series winner. Our fans and all New Yorkers deserve nothing less.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

pixy Wilpons: Mets To Explore Partial Sale Of Team
  • Sal Gobernaly

    They are going to have to sell the whole team.

    Do we really need to list the lies that have come from the Coupons?
    1. No Willie, we aren’t going to make you fly across country to fire you away from NYC.

    2. The losses from Madoff will not affect the Mets.

    3. We care about our fans.

    4. Salaries have no impact on who plays.

    5. We know what we are doing.

    I wonder if they put up a fight when Selig told them that Alderson would be their GM?

    Don’t let the door hit you in the keister Freddie. Maybe the guy you sell to will let your grand kids run a hot dog stand at the stadium.

  • Dean Collins

    Unless they can prove the Wilpons knew…i think they should be able to keep the money. #MoralHazzard

  • Hector

    Matthew Urso, I’m 51 years old, so I’ve been around to see the Yankees winining World Series title before ’97. Your problem is that you can’t face the fact that the Yankees are and have been what you wish the Mets should be and can’t. My comments are true facts, look it up.

  • Eric

    Though your article online got it right, your on air anchors apparently have no number sense. They just said – and repeated – that the Mets are worth some 800 plus billion, not million, which of course is the right figure. Shame on you, Maurice, from you at least I would expect better.

  • dico j.

    Let us know how you really feel….LOL.

  • Matthew Urso


  • t8tjt

    Boy, and until 2004 I thought it sucked to be a life long Red Sox fan. Sympathy to my Mets fan friends!

  • Ald an

    Awsome. It’s about time we can finally get a winning mindset in this organization. Next up the Nicks hopefully dump Dantoni and Walsh and NY will have real franchise contenders again.

    • Hector

      “NY will have real franchise contenders again.” Shows your a Mets. Where have you been? This town is own by the Yankees, who contend every year and by the way, wins titles, won one just a year ago. Then you have the Giants, they also have won titles, most recent in ’07. And now you also have the Jets as well. Because the Mets haven’t won a title in 25 yrs doen’t not mean other teams in NY have not.

      • Matthew Urso

        you’re probably too young to remember this but there was a time that the yankees weren’t the top team in town.. yankee fans ditched their team in boatloads for the mets (my father included) and then jumped back on the bandwagon in 97

  • Sidd Finch

    I’m putting together a team to take over majority interest in my beloved Mets

  • jerseyjoey

    Invest in a Winner The PHILLIES BABY


    Something doesent add up… They want to sell part of the team over $48 million? Thats only a contract for one good player, A franchise worth almost a billion dollars and they need to sell part of the team, sounds like an excuse so they dont have to reveal the real truth over how bad they are in financial distress. Time to sell, the wilpons only invested $10million to buy the team back in 1980, so the windfall will be huge on that kind of investment.

    • VC

      Jayare, I was thinking the same thing and if the Wilpons can settle the lawsuit the outlay would be even less than $48M. Something is rotten in Denmark. I wonder if Alderson and Co. knew about the plan to sell off a share of the team before they joined?

  • Barry

    Metz suck balls and will continue to do so

  • JQ

    Maybe Ollie P and Luis Castillo can pool their money and take a stake in the team.

  • Gene from NJ

    Let hope that Bobby V puts a team together and buys 51%!!!

  • motin

    I thought they lost billions on Madoff, They made 48 millions and they dont sign any good free agents. They Suck

  • Mike from New Fairfield

    I thought the kid was running it….into the ground. Sell to Connecticut .Youll never get over this and in Queens and you cant cant compete with the Yanks.

  • Pat

    Hopefully this will allow them to grow the payroll and compete in this market. According to Fay Vincent in an interview with Ed Randal in 1993 Mets fans inside NYC outnumbered Yankee fans 2 to 1. This has completely turned around due to the way this team has been run. They have been slow to react to a changing market and have not been able to keep up financially because of this they have lost a ton of market share to their competition. This move can only help to start to turn this around.

    • Big Hec

      2 to 1, yeah right and that was 1993, and those fans are now dead. They’re were fans from the old Dodgers & NY Giants dating back to the 30’s & 50’s. Yankees have own this town since the 1920’s. Most fans were at one time NL fans (Dodgers & Giants) not that those fans were all Mets fans, get that clear wishful thinkers. Yankees has to compete with two NL team at one time, who by the way, the Yankees beat both teams 8 times in the WS with each team beating the Yankees just once. Let’s not forget the Yankees over the Mets in 2000. Again, Yankees own NY dating back to the 1920’s and still do. Mets never had or will ever have a chance as long as the Yankees are in NY. It really was and is 2 – 1 Yankees fans over Mets fans

  • mike

    mike bloomberg will be able to stay relevant in new york after his term is over by jumping in on the mets

  • Hal Mann

    If the Wilpons are really commited to seeing the Mets in the World Series, they need to sell. There’s no chance it will happen under their management.

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