As a die-hard New York Mets fan, I was not surprised at all when Fred and Jeff Wilpon announced on Friday that they had to explore selling a minority ownership of the Mets. For the past two years, the Wilpon family has repeatedly denied losing money from Madoff; they have always seemed to skirt from the truth. This time around, the team is claiming that they will need to give back their profits to recover lost funds from other investors.
The Wilpons have always played second fiddle to the Steinbrenner family in New York. When someone thinks of the Steinbrenners, they think of power, devotion, winning, tradition and history. But what comes to mind when people think of the Wilpons? For me its bloated and overpaid rosters and a lack of discord between ownership and the fans.
The power of a team’s brand has a lot to do with its ownership. If the Yankees didn’t have the Steinbrenners, could the team have still won championships? Sure, but the team would not have its iconic stature. If the Patriots were not steered by Robert Kraft, the team would not be as forward thinking and inventive. If the Mavericks didn’t have Mark Cuban as their owner, they would probably have stayed irrelevant.
So the Mets have a big decision on their hands. Assuming the team sells a minority ownership (I would not be shocked if the Mets sold half the team if the right owner came along), it will be interesting who they bring on and what these new minds bring to the table. Owners do not need more than 50 percent to have power in a franchise; the Steinbrenners only own 33 percent of the Yankees and look what they have accomplished.
Here's a list of potential owners for the New York Mets and why they would be an interesting fit for the team…
Martin Luther King III
This possible ownership team has to be one of the more intriguing choices. One of the strongest qualities of the Mets brand is its commitment to African American equality. The team is a proud supporter of Jackie Robinson and adding Martin Luther King III, the son of Martin Luther King Jr., to the franchise would help promote tolerance and diversity in a seemingly all-white league. Former Mets such as Ed Kranepool and Donn Clendenon add a sense of tradition to the team while Larry Meli’s television experience can help the Mets achieve more from a marketing and branding perspective.
Mike Repole has all of the qualities the Wilpon’s should be looking for in an owner. He is an innovative, forward thinking entrepreneur who has developed a strong strategic partnership with the Mets (including sponsoring David Wright) through the years. He is a Saint John’s graduate and a huge Mets fan. His lifelong dream has been to be the Mets general manager, but being part owner is a pretty good compromise.
Whenever there is a share of a professional sports franchise for sale, there is always at least one potential buyer who uses the announcement for publicity. Martin Silver is that guy in the Mets ownership search. The founder of Georgi Vodka, the top selling Vodka in New York, has already come out with a press conference announcing his interest to purchase the team. Silver has used the sale as a branding opportunity; regardless of whether he is truly interested, Georgi Vodka is now getting featured in the news. Silver has the cash but I doubt his intentions at the end of the day. Maybe if he added a prominent Mets star to the equation (Tom Seaver or Mike Piazza), I would think differently.
Will Jerry Seinfeld be part of the Mets franchise?
Jerry Seinfeld: Comedian and Life-Long Mets Fan
Donald Trump: Real Estate Mogul
Time Warner Cable/Comcast: Already Own Part of SNY
Harrah’s: Growing Mets Sponsor, Owns Numerous Casinos
Former Players: Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, etc.