Mets owner Fred Wilpon owes lots of people lots of money. According to published reports, his total sports-related investment debt exceeds $1.5 billion dollars. Add to that a $300 million-$1 billion exposure in lawsuits filed against him by the victims of Bernie Madoff, and he finds himself in a significant hole.
It suddenly dawns on you why the Mets can’t afford to play in the free-agent market anymore. They’re lucky if they can afford the subway fare to Citi Field.
Meanwhile, attendance is sinking, the fan base is deteriorating and the Mets have gone from being championship contenders to the laughing stock of the Major League Baseball.
Mets fans—what’s left of them—deserve better. And Wilpon, despite his financial and legal woes, has a great chance to give it to them.
Right here—right now.
Fred can get out from under his sports-enterprise debt, redeem his reputation as a sportsman and rescue the Mets—simply by selling the team to its New York fans.
Packers for the People
Don’t laugh. Fans in Green Bay, Wisconsin have owned their professional football team since the 1920s. And over the past 90 years, the team has won 12 world championships—more than any other franchise in the NFL.
Here’s how it works for the Packers; there are over 4.7 million shares of Packer stock, owned by 112,000 stockholders, and according to recent news items, shares go for $200 each.
Some simple multiplication of the published figures shows the Packers are valued at $950 million. That’s $100 million more than the $850 million price tag that Forbes magazine placed on the Mets last year.
All of which means that a fan buyout of the New York National League franchise is completely doable—it just depends on how Fred Wilpon wants to play ball.
The Ugly Alternative
If Wilpon and his partners decide to hold onto the Mets, things could get even worse for the team and its fans. Strapped for dollars to pay interest costs and fees that reportedly range upwards of $100 million per year, Wilpon would be forced to loot the team. He would have to sell off its most valuable assets for cash.
Imagine José Reyes taking over Derek Jeter’s job at second base for the Yankees, or David Wright joining the Phillies. Or developing stars like Ike Davis and Angel Pagan being sold to the highest bidder. Such fire-sale atrocities can and will occur when Fred Wilpon finds himself short of cash and on the wrong side of the Bernie Madoff lawsuit.
Time to Share
If Wilpon follows the Green Bay Packers model to transfer the team to its fans, he would have to sell 4,250,000 shares valued at $200 apiece. Such an offer would reignite fan passion for the team. And what sports fan wouldn't want to own a piece of his beloved major league team? The shares would be gobbled up within hours.
The best part is this; fans who buy a share of the nonprofit corporation would have a voice in determining how the Mets are run. Taking a page out of the Packers playbook, shareholders would vote on choosing members to serve on a Board of Directors, and that board would choose an Executive Committee, which would direct the management of the team.
Steering Clear of the Scammers
The ownership arrangement that works for the Green Bay Packers was created long before the current crop of scam artists who have control of American business.
They’ll tell you it can’t be done. That the Mets cannot be owned by their loyal fans. They will say such things because they want a piece of the action, and they want to keep control.
But the continued and successful existence of the Packers can be used to beat down any of their arguments.
What’ll It Be, Fred?
Which leaves it all up to Fred Wilpon. He has complained that lawyers for the trustees in the Bernie Madoff lawsuit are ruining his reputation.
Well Fred, with one swoop of your pen, you can gain a reputation for being the most respected sports hero New York has ever known.
Just sell us the team.