Kallas Remarks: Deciphering The Mets-Madoff Case

By Steve Kallas
» More Columns

It doesn’t seem to be getting any better for the Wilpon family. Real estate hasn’t been very good for a few years. The New York Mets haven’t been very good for a few years. And now, with a sealed lawsuit hanging over their heads in the Madoff case, comes word from the New York Times about a strange older case where an investment firm started by Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, his brother-in-law and partner, had to pay back $13 million two years ago when a hedge fund collapsed due to fraud.


It’s hard to decipher all of the case (or cases) against the Wilpons, the Mets and all the related entities. The “clawback” case that has been in the news is a relatively simple one: when you take out more money than you put in to an investment and the company goes bankrupt, a trustee can come after that differential whether the Wilpons had any knowledge of the fraud or not. Obviously, however, it’s much worse if they were involved, had knowledge or, those dreaded words, “should have known” about the wrongdoing.

In the specific clawback case filed in the bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York, trustee Irving Picard is suing Wilpon and Katz for at least the difference between the $522.7 million that they put into Madoff accounts and the $570.5 million that was taken out (that is, a profit of $47.8 million).

When the suit was announced in early December 2010, the Mets organization, and especially Jeff Wilpon, Fred’s son, repeatedly said that it would have no impact on the Wilpon family’s ability to run the Mets franchise.

Until they announced this past Friday that it would.


While there has been much speculation as to how much the trustee is trying to get from the Mets (hard to believe even a $47 million loss would cripple the Wilpons so much as to seek a “minority partner or partners” for the team), it’s hard to figure out what exactly is going on. Are there numerous suits relating to Wilpon entities that put the Wilpons and the Mets at risk for a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars (everyone now seems to agree that the $1 billion number bandied about last week is way too high)? Did the Wilpons and Katz have any knowledge of the wrongdoing? Did the Mets borrow against monies they turned out not to have, causing them severe cash flow problems?

These are just a few of many questions that need to be answered.

Lots of information on these and other fascinating questions may well be answered in bankruptcy court in Manhattan on February 9, 2011. The New York Times and WNBC Channel 4 have filed a motion in the bankruptcy court to unseal the court records relating to the Madoff/Mets case(s).

Nobody even seems to know at this point why the case(s) was sealed in the first place. A rare occurrence, usually there must be some very good reason, like a trade secret that couldn’t be disclosed or some other confidential business information.

It’s very hard to seal a complaint and many legal experts have spoken out against such a holding in this particular case. Here’s what part of the motion says:

“To the extent there are any allegations of financial impropriety by the team’s owners, the taxpayers who have provided them substantial financial support have the right to know about it.”

Yikes! That’s a direct reference to the $300 million dollars of taxpayers’ monies that were given to the Mets over the last few years. Scary stuff, no?

It would be hard to see how a judge will justify not making this and maybe other complaints public. At a minimum, the judge will have to explain why they were sealed in the first instance. A viewing of this and other related lawsuits would shed more light on the problems of the Mets and their owners.


Now the New York Times is reporting that something similar to the Madoff scam has already occurred with a company founded by Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz. According to an article written by Alison Leigh Cowan in the Times, Wilpon and Katz started an investment firm that, two years ago, had to pay back nearly $13 million when a hedge fund collapsed from a Ponzi scheme.

The Times goes into the many similarities between this $450 million fraud, perpetrated by Samuel Israel III (now serving 22 years in prison), and the Madoff scam. The firm that Wilpon and Katz started, called Sterling Stamos, was accused of withdrawing money from a Sam Israel-entity named The Bayou Group after detecting evidence of possible fraudulent activity. Because of this alleged knowledge, lawyers for the defrauded went after Sterling Stamos for more than the $30 million that they took out (possibly something that the trustee in the Madoff case is trying to do; that is, go far beyond the simple “clawback” number of $47.8 million).

Sterling Stamos settled the case for the afore-mentioned $13 million with no admission of liability. In the present Madoff case, Fred Wilpon announced on Friday that his lawyers are trying to settle the present suit by Irving Picard, the Madoff trustee. As to the older case, a spokesman for the Mets said that Wilpon and Katz would not comment.

In a further bizarre side note, the third partner, Peter Stamos, a brilliant Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, was married for 29 days to fellow law school student Silda Wall, years before she married former Governor Eliot Spitzer. According to the Times, a spokesman for Mr. Stamos declined to comment.
Is there a movie here somewhere or what?


Well, in this writer’s opinion, much will be determined on February 9, unless the lawyers for Wilpon and Katz find out a way to globally settle the case by then. If they don’t, it will be hard to understand how the present Madoff cases will remain sealed. If unsealed, many (but not all) questions may be answered. As for the Times uncovering of the older hedge fund fraud, that is nothing but bad news for Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.

Whether they like it or not, they’ve got a lot of explaining to do. It will be hard to dance around the cumulative impact of what’s going on.

It’s now tougher than ever to be a Mets fan, don’t you think?

pixy Kallas Remarks: Deciphering The Mets Madoff Case
  • Rich K Risti

    Wilpons probably have little to no equity left in the Mets.

    On a side note, anyone else find it funny that Stamos was married to Spitzer’s wife for one menstrual cycle? ha ha ha ha

  • the stork

    Rogers – “the stork” is well-known to most Met fans. Sorry you didn’t get the reference.

    • Rogers

      Oh, I absolutely got the reference. However, I would like to point out the fact that “yikes” and “scary stuff, no?” are well-known phrases to the human species. To judge this article based on a couple of words is just completely ignorant, I thought it was very well written and contained a great, thoughtful analysis that can be understood by most Met fans regarding their ownership.

  • Ronnie Sue Ambrosino

    Do you think this can just happen to the rich and famous? That’s not the case…every American investor is susceptible to losing their life savings, just like the Madoff victims did.
    Please read this eye-opening information from NJ Congressman Scott Garrett and help to make sure that your investments are safe from fraud.


    “””You aint seen nothing yet”””Wait til the Charlie Samuels Fbi/gambling?Wilpon connection case breaks….. This will spell the end of the Wilpons…Bud Selig set up Alderson in the Met front office knowing what the samuels case will do to the Wilpon credibility/ plus the Madoff case..Bye Bye ilpons….

  • Steve Chong

    One also has to understand that the Wilpons are thiking of building the WIllets Point project next door to Citi Field which is going to cost at least 3 billion dollars. Given that they have leveraged their assets to maximum (allegedly refinancing a 450 million dollar loan) on top of their WP aspirations as well as this lawsuit, something had to give.

  • BJT

    Yeah, it’s so tough to be a Mets fan that I ran out and bought an A-Rod Jersey. NOT.

    Believe me, Mets fans are not going to start rooting for another team just because of this. The ones who do are bandwagon fans.

    • Madoff

      A-Rod jersey is worst more then what the Mets are worth. It would have been a great investment on your part. Yankees, Phillies & Braves fans are laughing their a$$es off on Mets fans today. Mets fans deserve it for all the nonsense junk they talked over the years. BJT comment should be used by Letterman tonight as his opening material.

      • Madoff

        hey BJT, what do you think the Mets been doing the last 20 or so season with the high payroll by signing players like Martinez, Santana, Beltran, Rodriguez, Murray, Bonilla, Bay, Gladvine, Coleman, Alou, that’s just to name of few of the hundred of players the Mets have signed and failed to win. This year’s payroll will be around $150 mil. There was one year they called the Mets “the worst team money can buy.” By the way, what does BJ stay for? That must’ve been fun when you were in school. LOL, B….J, LOL. Enjoy your summer. LOL B…J

      • BJT

        Freudian slip, lol? I totally agree … A-Rod’s jersey is definitely “worst” more than the Mets!

        As for Yankee fans, I laugh at them for rooting for a team that can only get success by BUYING it. I don’t laugh at the Phillie fans, but how many titles do they have in over 100 years of existence? As for Braves fans, if they laugh they are pitiful because they haven’t done squat for a long time.

        Have fun in your “worst” A-Rod jersey!

  • BJT

    “Why is it that Wilpon liquidated virtually all of his assets in a fund that was paying
    20% or more per year right before the fund collapsed.”

    According to reports, the Wilpons did not withdraw most of their assets from Madoff right before he was arrested. The reports say he still had $500 million in those funds at the time the scheme was revealed. So this idea that he got out before the collapse or knew what was going on makes no sense,

    • mike

      So that means they lost a half billion dollars? That’s not what the Wilpons have been saying. If they had that money in the account at the time the scandal was revealed, that money was lost. Is that what you believe happened?

      • BJT

        Right. The money was lost. It is not what I believe happened, it is what has been reported in the media.

        The Wilpons have not said publicly what they lost with Madoff. So how would you know?

  • the stork


    “Scary stuff, no?”

    Did your 12 year old sister write this for you?

    • Rogers

      “the stork”

      Did your 7 year old brother come up with that name for you?

      An excellently written article.. to say the least. Keep up the good work.

  • mike

    Fred Wilpon has maintained that Madoff was a trusted friend who betrayed him.
    Why is it that Wilpon liquidated virtually all of his assets in a fund that was paying
    20% or more per year right before the fund collapsed. It sounds like the Wilpons had some information in the form of insider information. If that’s the case this becomes a criminal matter. Is the SEC
    looking at the Mets closely? And the news today that the Wilpons were involved in another Ponzi like scheme that pre-dated the Madoff scandal makes all of this that much more suspicious.

  • teetotaler

    This may be the break that Madoff has been waiting for. By spilling what he knows, he could have his sentence reduced to just a few short years.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Giving Tuesday
Charles Osgood Event

Listen Live