Anyone who knows me will agree that I have always been a Yankee fan, but one with a deep respect for the National League Legacy of New York. So if you think I am piling on the Mets, you’re wrong. And as a business man, I feel for my fellow New Yorkers who root for the Mets and must suffer through the debacle now in the courts and the media while the connection between Mets ownership and two separate Ponzie schemes -one with Bernie Madoff- play out.
When the Bernard Madoff scandal first arose, it was made known that Fred Wilpon, owner of the Mets, was an investor. Mr. Wilpon’s reputation has always been beyond reproach. He represented himself as a victim, no different from the rest of the defrauded investors when the news broke. Mr Wilpon also assured Met fans that, while a victim, that the Mets were not adversely harmed and that the day to day operations of the team would not suffer. Last week, it came to light that Wilpon was being sued to return money in what is known as a clawback rule, where stolen money has to be returned, even if the recipient is innocent. In response, and in a move that led to questions about the Mets’ solvency, it was announced that a portion (non majority) of the team would be for sale to a silent partner.
According to the New York Times, Met ownership was not only a winner from their Madoff dealings, they actually used him very extensively as a line of credit and a depositary for deferred compensation for players and executives. The Trustee for the Madoff victims, Irving Picard, is demanding that the Met ownership pay back all profits as ill-gotten gains in a lawsuit unsealed yesterday, to the tune of $1 billion. Now, a day before the Superbowl, New Yorkers are talking baseball and scandal. That the Mets have to pay something back is not an argument, but the amount is staggering. It has now come to light that the Mets, valued at $858 billion last year by Forbes, are tapped out.
- The Times has Wilpon’s total debt at $1.5 billion
- The Mets line of credit with Major League Baseball is maxed out.
- The Mets previous source of credit, Bernie Madoff, is, well, Bernie Madoff.
If you were a free agent, would you be inclined to sign with this team?
How can Met fans, who have suffered through misery since Wilpon became majority owner in 2002, be confident in seeing any on-field success with management in such disarray?
Lack of equity, the inability to borrow out of one’s problems, and the drying up of available credit are eerily similar problems the Mets have with anyone facing foreclosure. The situation is unsustainable, and the Wilpons should bow out with any available grace they now possess.