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Wilpons Seek Buyer For 20-25 Percent Stake In Mets; Madoff Trustee May Want As Much As $1 Billion

After the initial announcement that the Mets were "exploring" their options for potential "strategic partners," Fred and Jeff Wilpon held a conference call with reporters, calling the possible stake in the team between 20 and 25 percent. The Wilpons also said there is no way that the team would be sold and that Sterling Equities will continue to be the principle owner.

However, a report from the New York Times indicates that Irving Picard, the trustee representing the victims in the Bernie Madoff case, could seek up to $1 billion from Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, two investors (and Mets owners) who benefited from this scheme. The report also says their assets: the team, SNY and commercial real estate holdings and investment funds, could be at risk.

The Wilpons said on their conference call, however, that this deal would not include SNY or the stadium and that it would not affect the team's day-to-day operations. Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman tweeted (according to his sources) that the Mets own about 60 percent of the television station. Alternately, Bob Klapisch of The Bergen Record "was told Mets' revenues are down 30-35 percent" since the move to Citi Field. Playing into this decline in revenues -- at least partially -- is the team's lack of success over the first two seasons there. The Mets won only 70 games in 2009 and 79 last year -- and besides hiring a new GM and front office assistants, there wasn't too much to be excited about regarding the players the Mets brought in this offseason, so that won't help matters either.

The Times report says that the Wilpons have contacted Bud Selig to arrange a face-to-face meeting next week. The Mets' owners said today that Major League Baseball has not put pressure on the organization to find a partner.

Steve Greenberg, the Wilpons' advisor in this process, said that selling a majority interest in the team would yield a premium, but regardless the level of interest in a minority stake will be "robust."

Greenberg also said that the interest in buying sports teams is "never stronger." He also said that minority partners are "not that unusual" and referenced the Yankees as a team that has them.

The Mets are valued by Forbes at $858 million.

This story doesn't look like it will come to a conclusion any time soon -- and the Wilpons certainly appear to be behind the eight ball on this one.