Mets' Katz Denies Report He Wants To Sell Majority Share; Wilpon's Control At Stake?
Mets President Saul Katz has "expressed a desire to sell his portion of the team because he has grown tired of spending millions to prop it up," according to sources cited by Michael Schmidt of the N.Y. TIMES. However, Katz yesterday in a statement said, "There is no truth to the reports of any intention of selling. I have no intention of selling my share of the Mets nor have I ever had any intention of selling my share." Schmidt notes Katz "owns a majority share" of the team in a partnership with his brother-in-law and business partner, Mets Chair & CEO Fred Wilpon. Sources said that Katz has "been hesitant to sell because it could lead to situations that would jeopardize Wilpon's continuing control of the club." Katz as a result remains "locked into subsidizing part of the team's losses in an effort to bolster Wilpon, who considers the team a family heirloom" and wants his son, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, to "control it for years to come." Katz and Wilpon are "believed to own roughly two-thirds of the Mets." Katz has "long overseen the Mets' finances, dating to the days when he used proceeds" from investments in Bernie Madoff’s hedge fund to "fund the team's operating expenses." But Katz has "remained in the background when it comes to the day-to-day fortunes of the club." It is "unclear whether Katz has tried to search for potential buyers," but his "apparent desire to sell suggests that the Mets' losses have tested his patience." The team's financial woes, which "started around the time that Madoff’s fraud was exposed" in '08, have "had an effect on the team’s performance and on its owners and have limited the amounts spent in recent years on the club's payroll" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/13).
IT'S ABOUT TIME? In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes Katz' possible sale is a "complicated story," in part because Katz "strongly denied it." But a source said that Katz is "relying on semantics for cover." Klapisch writes to the "hard cores who still live (and die) for the Mets, this coup can’t happen fast enough, presumably because the Wilpons ... would have to be deposed by [MLB Commissioner Bud Selig] if Katz moves on." But it is "not that easy, of course, and don’t discount how much Selig’s friendship and loyalty to Fred Wilpon matters." A new commissioner next year will mean "new neutrality in the way the Mets are viewed" by the league office. But the "real reason to vote for regime change" is the Wilpons' "inability to afford a big-market payroll." The Mets "always feel like they’re one step behind, not to mention millions of dollars short in their quest for respectability" (Bergen RECORD, 5/13). ESPN N.Y.'s Adam Rubin noted the Mets have "reduced their payroll" to roughly $86M this season after operating at levels approaching $150M "during the final days" of former GM Omar Minaya's regime. Fans who are "upset with the team having suffered five straight losing seasons, and with a lack of spending at levels customary" in N.Y., have "stayed away from the ballpark, further placing a drag on the team's finances." Average home attendance "has gone from 51,165 in the final year of Shea Stadium" in '08, "to 38,941 the following year in the first season at Citi Field, to 32,401 in 2010, then 30,108, then 28,035, and to 26,695" in '13 (ESPNNY.com, 5/12). ESPN N.Y.'s Johnette Howard wrote Mets fans yesterday "rushed onto Twitter to dance on the Wilpons' grave and dream of life after Fred and his son, Jeff." The fact that the story "might be inaccurate wasn't the point" (ESPNNY.com, 5/13).
RADIO GAGA: In N.Y., Justin Tasch notes WFAN-AM's Mike Francesa yesterday on his show called the Mets "jackasses" for banning members of their organization from appearing on the station. Francesa, who was doing his show from Yankee Stadium, said that the Mets "were mad WFAN didn’t reup its contract with the Mets after 25 years as the team’s flagship radio station." He also "complained about not being able to do shows from Citi Field." Francesa: "They get what they deserve. I hope there’s 10,000 people at Citi Field in a couple of days. ... [Mets GM Sandy Alderson] makes moves, he’s not allowed on the show. Even [SNY's Keith Hernandez is] not allowed on the show. I mean, you’re banning Keith Hernandez from the show. It’s utter nonsense. No wonder you have to run around and put out fires about Saul Katz wanting to sell. If I was Saul I’d want to sell the franchise too, the way things were going." Tasch cites a source as saying the Mets "were not 'boycotting' WFAN, rather trying to build up their new radio relationship" with WOR-AM. A source added that the new flagship is "not eager to see Mets on the old station" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/13).