Posted by JD on January 28, 2011
The Mets sent out a message to season ticket holders today, informing us that they a). are in discussions to settle the lawsuit filed by Irving Picard, US trustee for Madoff’s victims and b). they are in the process of “looking at a number of potential options”, which might include selling a piece of the team. This was followed up by a conference call during which Fred and Jeff announced that they are looking to sell 20-25% of the team.
Any way you slice it, this is not good news. I’m as critical of the Wilpons as anybody, but ownership changes are most often messy. Recent examples include the McCourt’s messy divorce and the Texas Rangers’ bankruptcy/bidding war. It’s possible that the process could go smoothly for the Wilpons, but it’s more realistic that the search and ownership transfer drag out. The potential for negative press and sensational tabloid headlines exists, to say nothing of the potential implications on the day-to-day operations of the team.
But wait, there’s more. As HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra astutely points out, there’s no guarantee that the Wilpons will be able to keep control. This opens the door for James Dolan, one of my least favorite sports figures, to take control of the Mets. I wrote about this back in March, but I think it bears repeating. An excerpt from that post:
I can tell you this: the Dolans haven’t had viable summer content for their MSG network since SNY debuted. They would jump on the chance to purchase the Mets and have more than enough money to do so. SNY would disappear or become MSG2 and 1050 AM would become the flagship radio station. Every negative surrounding the Rangers’ and Knicks’ front offices would be replicated in Flushing before you could blink an eye. Cronyism may or may not be present in the front office today, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it would become institutionalized as soon as the purchase was completed.
Anything can happen: the process of selling part of the team has barely begun. But I’m inclined to focus on the negative, and it doesn’t get much worse than James Dolan (although I suppose Islanders fans may beg to differ). Hopefully I’m making a mountain out of a molehill (it’s been known to happen), because I’d hate to look back on this day in ten years as a negative turning point; the day the Mets’ ownership situation went from bad to worse.
From the Mets:
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. You deserve nothing less.
We wanted to share this information with you concurrent with sharing it with all Mets employees and the media. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Fred Wilpon, Chairman & CEO
Jeff Wilpon, COO