SBD/March 1, 2011/Franchises

MLB Reportedly Has Received List Of Prospective Mets Bidders

Source close to Valentine downplays report about his interest in Mets stake
A list of "prospective candidates seeking minority ownership of the Mets has been sent" to MLB for review, according to sources cited by Steven Marcus of NEWSDAY. A source said, "It's a preliminary step. It doesn't mean that they would be approved to be an owner of the team." The Mets have said that they would sell up to 25% of the team. Those who are "deemed serious bidders are vetted by MLB to determine their financial suitability, with an extensive investigation into their business and personal background" (NEWSDAY, 3/1). A report Sunday indicated that ESPN analyst and former Mets manager Bobby Valentine is "lining up investors" to acquire a stake in the team. However, a source familiar with Valentine's interest in the Mets said "there's not much to it." Valentine yesterday "declined to discuss the topic" (NEWSDAY, 3/1). In N.Y., Waldstein & Kepner write it "would be surprising" if Mets Owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon "would happily sell the team to a group that included Valentine, however small Valentine's financial interest might be." Valentine was "fired after the 2002 season," and his relationship with the team "has been prickly ever since, even though -- or perhaps because -- Valentine remains popular with fans" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/1).

DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: In N.Y., Belson & Cowan report Fred Wilpon and Mets President Saul Katz on Thursday "will argue their case" against the clawback suit filed against them by Irving Picard, the trustee overseeing the recovery of funds from Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. They will appear "in the federal appeals court for the Second Circuit in Manhattan, where they will be lined up against" Picard and the SEC. Several lawyers said that the appeal is "perhaps the last chance for the Wilpons and Katz to stop what has turned into a legal freight train bearing down on them." The decision by the appeals court is "not expected for months," and if the judges uphold Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Lifland's ruling against the Mets owners, they "can appeal the case further, an uncertain process that would take many more months." The Wilpons and Katz "have the option of continuing to negotiate with Picard and his legal team" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/1). Meanwhile, the N.Y. POST's Kosman, DeCambre & Mangan report the "cash-starved Mets are desperately seeking a new loan -- totaling tens of millions of dollars -- to cover their basic operating expenses." JPMorgan Chase, which "led the banks that loaned the team about $430 million last year," is "trying to recruit other institutions to join a syndicate to put together a new loan that would tide the Mets over until they sell a minority stake in the ballclub." A source said that both the Mets and MLB are "exerting strong pressure on JPMorgan to make that loan happen" (N.Y. POST, 3/1).
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