The news for the New York Mets never ceases to amaze and with the franchise's connections with Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, it should be no shock that the Wilpon family has announced today that they are seriously considering selling a minority stake in the New York Mets in order to inject fresh capital into the organization.
Sterling Equities, the Wilpons' real estate firm which also owns the Mets, is being sued by a trustee of the victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme, Irving Picard, and according to the statement from the Wilpons, the owners are now "looking at a number of potential options including the addition of one more more strategic partners." They've hired Steve Greenberg, a managing director at Allen & Company, to advise them during this process. Bloomberg Sports reporter Michele Steele says that Greenberg worked with the Wilpons when they bought the franchise originally and also represented the Brewers, Reds and Braves when those teams were sold.
Up until this point, the Wilpons have been mum on the financial implications of their ties to the Madoff swindle and the corresponding lawsuit -- but this marks the first public admission that the impact on their organization could be substantial.
In their statement, the Wilpons said that regardless of what happens, the family will remain the primary owners of the Mets. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk at NBC Sports says this could be an "opportunity" for other investors to make an offer to the Wilpons that could be "awfully hard to refuse."
This offseason, the team has spent only $8.1 million in major league contracts, though the estimated payroll will be close to $150 million. Even so, they've been uncharacteristically quiet, often searching for bargains and players coming off injuries, as opposed to a bigger splash. Not saying it's a terrible idea considering their commitments to Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Carlos Beltran, but when the team's biggest free agent coup is Chris Young, you had to figure something was up.
The full statement from the Wilpons below:
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.