For two years now the Wilpons said the possible losses they suffered at the hands of the evil Bernie Madoff would not effect the running of the New York Mets. Well on Friday the Wilpons all-but admitted that is not case. In a letter to Mets fans and the media, the Wilpons said they are looking for “strategic partners,” which is a business-talk way of saying they need cash:
Dear Mets Fans:
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
Last month Irving Picard, the trustee who is leading the fight to find assets for Madoff’s victims, sued the Wilpons, claiming they actually made a profit off of Madoff. Picard said the Wilpons invested $522.7 million with Madoff, but withdrew $570.5 million over the years for a profit of $47.8 million.
The Wilpons are still victims here — they lost their initial investment, money they thought was safe with Madoff that could be accessed if needed. But of course, Madoff had worse victims — people who lost their investment and never took any money out.
The interesting thing here is that it seems the Wilpons need cash to pay off the $47.8 million if they lose the lawsuit. Certainly that is a whole lot of money to you and me, but it shouldn’t be a lot to a family supposedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
This can only be good news for Mets fans. The Wilpons have shown time and time again that they do not know how to run a baseball franchise. A partner — even one who is a minority owner who could still be overruled by the Wilpons — could breathe new life into ownership and present new ideas.
Imagine if someone like Mark Cuban bought into the Mets? Say what you want about him, he will do anything to win, something that cannot be said about the Wilpons.