After a year-and-a-half denying that their losses in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme would affect the team, the owners of the New York Mets are putting a piece of the baseball club up for sale.
Fred and Jeff Wilpon said today that they would seek to sell up to a 25% stake in the Mets as a result of a clawback lawsuit against them. The Wilpons, who had about half a billion dollars invested with Madoff, a longtime family friend, withdrew $47.8 million more than they invested during their decades as Madoff clients, Irving Picard, the court-appointed receiver in the case, has alleged.
Picard sued the Wilpons and the Mets in December, even though the two sides were "engaged in good-faith negotiations" over a settlement. Any money the Wilpons raise from the Mets sale could be put towards such a settlement.
"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," the Wilpons said.
The Mets are worth an estimated $858 million, the third-highest valuation of any team, according to Forbes magazine. A sale of a quarter of the team could net more than $200 million for the Wilpons, who bought half of the team in 1986 and then bought out their co-owners for $131 million in 2002.
If such a sale were to occur—Fred Wilpon stressed that "we may or may not do anything"—neither the Mets' new stadium, Citi Field, nor its cable network, SportsNet New York, would be affected.
"I want to emphasize what we are discussing today has not and will not affect the Mets' day-to-day operations and control," Fred Wilpon told reporters on a conference call.