SBD/February 15, 2011/Franchises

MLB Keeping Watchful Eye Over Mets' Financial Situation

MLB records could be subpoenaed in lawsuit against Wilpon
ESPN's "Outside The Lines" Sunday addressed the Mets' financial situation, and ESPN's Buster Olney said though Mets Owner Fred Wilpon is "going to get every benefit of the doubt from Major League Baseball," the big question within league circles is "how steep is this debt?" Olney: "How much money can the Mets lose before Fred Wilpon might actually be forced to sell the team?" Olney added Wilpon's plan to sell 20-25% of the team "while not giving up control to another owner is almost unworkable because, of course, if someone invested in the team and then Fred Wilpon put out a cash call to his investors as he dealt with his financial problems, who knows where that would end?" Horrow Sports Ventures CEO Rick Horrow noted Irving Picard, the trustee for victims in the Bernie Madoff-led Ponzi scheme, in his more than $300M lawsuit against the Wilpons, Saul Katz and Sterling Equities "may subpoena Major League Baseball records because that's where the flow of funds is." But Horrow noted some of the "positives" are that former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who is mediating between the Mets and Picard, "may mediate as quickly as he possibly can and there is a premium to get this resolved quickly for all those investors that want money back." Horrow: "At least the momentum is there to try to resolve this as fast as possible" ("OTL," ESPN, 2/13).

PLAYING FROM BEHIND
: ESPN.com's Lester Munson noted the "detail and the specificity of the allegations against the Wilpons and the Mets" in Picard's lawsuit are "impressive, reflecting deep analysis of the Wilpon empire." The Wilpons "insist that they are victims of Madoff's fraud, but there is no doubt that they have some explaining to do." The lawsuit is "only the opening salvo in what will be a long battle." Munson: "With an enormous load of debt on their myriad enterprises and the downturn in the real estate market, the Wilpons and the word 'insolvency' can now be used in the same sentence. Their ownership of the Mets is in jeopardy. ... Will the Wilpon empire, when it's all over, join the ranks of Enron and AIG and other massive business frauds?" (ESPN.com, 2/11).

RESCUE MISSION: On Long Island, David Lennon wrote the "most important man employed by the Mets these days" is GM Sandy Alderson, the "main architect of the franchise's current reboot -- and also its most vocal pitchman." Given the "amount of public scrutiny the Mets have been under lately, it feels like open season on the beaten-down franchise, and it is Alderson's job to change the negative perception that has dogged this team since 2006." Lennon: "For a brand that's worth more than $800 million, not including its SNY network, Alderson has been asked to be its jacket-and-tie savior" (NEWSDAY, 2/13).
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