New York Mets: Wilpons Issue Statement About Madoff Lawsuit and Affect on Team

James Stewart-MeudtCorrespondent IIJanuary 28, 2011

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29:  Fred Wilpon, president of the Mets, far right, listens while Sandy Alderson answers questions during a press conference introducing Alderson as the general manager for the New York Mets on October 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Wilpon sat with Alderson's family, along with Saul Katz, CEO of the Mets and Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the Mets.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Mets, Fred Wilpon, and Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Wilpon, issued the following statement today:

"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."

 

The Mets are currently involved in a lawsuit with Irving H. Piccard, the trustee charged with recovering and distributing money to the victims of convicted ponzi schemer, Bernie Madoff. Both the team and the Wilpons themselves were sued.

According to a report published by the New York Times, a Mets fundtitled "Mets Limited Partnership"invested $522.7 million with Madoff and withdrew $570.5 million over the course of several years, a $47.8 million profit.

In October, Fred Wilpon called Madoff's actions "a complete betrayal of us."

So far, the Wilpons have not directly said that the Madoff situation would affect the Mets' finances. This offseason, the Mets have been unwilling, or unable, to add additional payroll other than scheduled raises for certain players. They have made several low-key additions, but were not players for the bigger free agents, such as Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee.

So what are fans to take from today's statements?

Well, there were no comments made concerning the lawsuit itself, other than that they were unable to comment, of course. But there are some important parts of the Wilpons' statement that fans will want to pay attention to.

First, the Mets are seeking the addition of "one or more strategic partners."

In December, Sterling Equities, the Wilpon-owned real estate company, said:

"Regardless of the outcome of [the lawsuit], we want to emphasize that the New York Mets will have all the necessary financial and operational resources to fully compete and win. That is our commitment to our fans and to New York."

That may no longer be the case. If the Mets are in need of additional partners to help support the team's finances, then perhaps the Madoff dealings had a far greater impact on the team than previously reported by the Wilpons.

Steve Greenberg, who the Wilpons have hired as their adviser in their search for "partners," is the son of baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg.

Allen & Company is widely regarded as the premier investment house in the media and entertainment industry, regularly dealing with guys like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Rupert Murdoch.

Only time well tell how this situation will directly affect the team. If the Wilpons are going to continue to insist that it won't have any negative affects as far as payroll is concerned, then fans need to see that through free agent signings and growth in the farm system.

If the Mets are in need of investors for the team, how will that change the dynamic of current operations and how will it change how the new front office will function?

The Wilpons said they will not look to sell the team, regardless of how the search for partners turns out.

This current situation is just another weight on the backs of Mets fans. Not only is the team itself in question, but now it's finances aren't in much better shape. Expectations are already low. It would be a shame for this situation to get more play than the actual team.

 

Update: On a conference call today, the Wilpons said they are willing to sell a 20-25 percent stake in the team to infuse cash.