SBD/February 3, 2011/Franchises

Mets Reportedly May Include SNY In Effort To Sell Minority Stake In Team

The Mets "would consider selling a portion" of their share in SportsNet N.Y. if they "can't otherwise sell a minority stake in the team," according to a source cited by Costa, Futterman & Rothfeld of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The source said that the team remains "confident it can sell a minority share of the ballclub without including a piece of SNY," but added that Mets owners would consider including a piece of SNY in a deal "if and when it became a necessity." The Mets own 65% of SNY; Comcast and Time Warner Cable are minority investors in the RSN. The network is Mets Owner Fred Wilpon's "most lucrative sports asset," generating more than $150M "per year in subscriber fees alone" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/3). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports Wilpon's declaration last week that SNY is "off the block" for now "surprised sports bankers and analysts because the five-year-old network is a lucrative business that could lure buyers eager to own part of a media property in New York." A stake in SNY, which "could be worth $1 billion," would give an investor a "slice of its profits and equity in a growing asset at a time when the Mets are struggling." But Sandomir notes for Wilpon to "sell a substantial part" of the Mets' stake in the RSN, he "would first have to offer it to his partners, Time Warner Cable and Comcast." That could "slow the process." Also, the group "more than doubled the debt on SNY to $450 million last year, which would most likely reduce the price an investor would pay for a stake in the network." But SNY's "steady income and growth potential would still attract buyers" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3).

GUESS WHO? Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban yesterday said that he "might have some interest in buying the Mets, but he won't be the one to make the first move." Cuban: "For any baseball team, I'm not going to be the one to chase after it. If someone sees me as a potential owner, I will take their call and discuss the deal." Cuban was unsuccessful in bids for the Cubs and Rangers, and he said, "I'm not going to get in a bidding situation ever again. I'm not going to be in a situation where I make the proposal. ... I'm not going to go through the same process I did with the Rangers and the Cubs." Cuban added that his interest in the Mets "would depend on how big of a stake he could purchase" (NEWSDAY, 2/3). Cuban: "I've just come to the conclusion that if I'm going to write a huge check, I'd rather have my ass kissed than have to chase" (ESPNNY.com, 2/2). Cuban noted that he "doubts he would be willing to buy in without majority control unless he has future buying rights." He said, "I can tell you from my perspective, it’d be very unlikely that I’d choose to participate if they came to me for a minority stake unless there was a right to buy it in the event of that opportunity" (N.Y. POST, 2/3). In N.Y., Tim Smith writes Cuban "would be the perfect man to own a share of the franchise." Cuban could "make things happen for the Mets." He would "demand the kind of excellence that the Wilpons haven't been able to cajole from the franchise for the last few years." Smith: "Mr. Wilpon, please pick up the phone and call Cuban. ... He would breathe fresh life into what is a stale, staid franchise. And his hands-on approach and accessibility would be a tremendous asset to a team that needs an image boost. It might even be enough to wipe away the stench from the Bernie Madoff mess" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/3).

Attorneys for Wilpons and Katz (c) feel trustee
"manufactured a flawed legal theory" for lawsuit
FIRING BACK
: The attorneys for Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz yesterday said that the trustee representing Madoff's victims "manufactured a flawed legal theory for the 'empty suit' he filed in December" against the Mets owners, and has "unfairly portrayed them as crooks and thieves." Attorney David Caplan said that the suit from Madoff trustee Irving Picard is "a 'strong-arm' attempt to squeeze hundreds of millions of dollars out of Sterling Equities, the firm controlled by Fred Wilpon and Katz." Caplan: "We believe the complaint is baseless, both factually and legally." Caplan and another attorney from Davis Polk Wardwell LLC, Karen Wagner, were responding to recent reports that "they believe were the result of leaks by Picard's office of the contents of the sealed lawsuit" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/3).

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS: In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes Mets GM Sandy Alderson over the next few months can "confirm with actions that he is not shackled by Wilpon-authorized handcuffs," as he has claimed. The Mets own the 13th pick in June's MLB First-Year Player Draft, so will they "take the best player available even if it is, say, a Scott Boras client?" Also, the int'l signing period opens a month later. Alderson said he does not think "any of those decisions will be affected" by the Madoff fallout. He cited a "scouting meeting last week in which there was no discussion of which players to avoid in the draft due to potential costs." Alderson: "There have been no restrictions in those areas" (N.Y. POST, 2/3).
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