SBD/February 11, 2011/Franchises

Judge Appoints Former New York Gov. Cuomo To Mediate Mets Case

Cuomo was a lawyer and mediator 40 years ago before getting into politics
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Burton Lifland Thursday appointed former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to "mediate the cutthroat legal fight between the owners of the Mets and the trustee overseeing the recovery of funds from Bernie Madoff's collapsed Ponzi scheme," according to Thompson, O'Keeffe & Vinton of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The order "could mean a swifter resolution to the massive lawsuit that the trustee, Irving Picard, brought against the Mets' owners in December, claiming that Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and their partners and companies 'knew or should have known' that Madoff was a fraud." Settlement talks between Picard and the Mets ended earlier this month "after both sides wrote letters to the judge asking that the suit be unsealed." Details of the mediation are "generally not made public until the settlement is announced, or there is no settlement" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/11). With mediation under way, Lifland "ordered that no papers about negotiations be filed with his court" (NEWSDAY, 2/11). Lifland said the "special issues" in this case require "an appropriately experienced mediator." Cuomo, who "began his career in public life as a lawyer and mediator 40 years ago" and is the father of current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, "will not be empowered to impose a settlement, but is expected to take steps to cool what has become an angry public fight" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/11).

HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports while Citi Field is "not a target" of Picard's lawsuit against the Wilpons and Katz, the bonds that financed the Mets' ballpark "have a new black mark against them." Moody's Investors Service on Thursday "changed its outlook on the $695 million in bonds from stable to negative." Last year, Moody's and Standard & Poor's "downgraded the debt on the stadium to a rating of junk status," and that rating "remains in effect." Moody's in a statement said its assessment of the Citi Field bonds "acknowledges the close connection between the health and performance of the Mets baseball team and the long-term credit of the stadium project." Sandomir notes the "change in Moody’s outlook could be a precursor to another downgrade in the rating," and the report "reflects concerns about the team as the Mets’ owners vow to fight the trustee in court." Moody’s "more sober view, and any future rating cut, would increase the cost of future borrowings for the stadium" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/11).

BLOOMBERG NOT INTERESTED: N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Mets fan, Thursday said that he "will not invest" in the franchise. Bloomberg: "I don't think that I should own a baseball team. I have tickets at the Mets and the Yankees for my daughters to go and I enjoy baseball and a beer and a bag of popcorn there. But, rest assured, I'm not going to buy a baseball team or have an interest in it" (ESPNNY.com, 2/10). On Long Island, Anthony Rieber notes Bloomberg joins fellow Mets fan and comedian Jerry Seinfeld, former Mets Owner Nelson Doubleday and Cablevision Owner the Dolan family among "those who have said they are not interested in buying the Mets" (NEWSDAY, 2/11).

A JOB WELL DONE: In N.Y., Dan Martin notes Sandy Alderson has "stayed true to his word that he wouldn't mortgage the future to try to make any high-profile signings" in his first offseason as Mets GM, and people around MLB "have lauded his cautious approach." One exec said, "Everything they did was low-risk, pretty high-reward." But Martin notes "no one knows where that leaves the Mets, especially in the wake of their announcement that as much as 25 percent of the team is up for sale." While many expect the Mets to have a "much more high-profile offseason" after '11, "those plans no doubt have changed." In the meantime, they "have to decide how long to hold on to the assets they have" (N.Y. POST, 2/11).
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