Mets Minority Stake Draws Interest From Several People, Owner Wilpon Says

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon said several people are interested in buying a minority stake in the franchise, being offered because of a lawsuit tied to the Ponzi scheme run by Bernard L. Madoff.

Wilpon, the team’s chairman, told reporters today that a number of candidates have contacted Steve Greenberg, a managing director at Allen & Co. hired to address the situation, since the Jan. 28 announcement that the family is considering selling up to 25 percent of the team. The Mets are worth $858 million, Forbes magazine said last April.

Several candidates have begun the process of gaining approval, which includes submission of financial records to Major League Baseball, Wilpon said in a news briefing posted on ESPN.com. He didn’t identify those involved or say how many interested parties had come forward.

“Steve told me yesterday that he’s never run a process like this, that he has gotten more real top-notch people to go through the process,” Wilpon said at the Mets’ spring training site in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “There are a lot of people who have a sincere interest. How that is going to come out, I don’t know.”

Wilpon also said the potential bidders accepted that they would have no say in running the team.

Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon. Close

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

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Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

“So far, that’s the ground rules they’ve come in on, and they’ve come in very enthusiastically,” he said.

Jeff Wilpon, Fred Wilpon’s son and the Mets’ chief operating officer, reiterated yesterday that a controlling interest in the team isn’t for sale.

Trump Interest

Among those who have expressed interested in buying the Mets outright are billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump and Michael Repole, the co-founder of Glaceau Vitaminwater sports drink, which was sold to The Coca-Cola Co. for $4.1 billion in 2007. A fan group, BuytheMets.com, also is trying to raise money to make a bid, offering shares at $999 each.

Trustee Irving Picard wants to recover $300 million in alleged phony profits from Madoff’s scheme made by Sterling Equities Inc., which owns the Mets, and as much as $700 million in principal, his lawyer, David Sheehan, said on Feb. 11.

The Wilpons have said repeatedly that they had no knowledge of the Madoff scheme, and Fred Wilpon reiterated today that “we will be vindicated.”

“We did not know one iota, one thing about Madoff’s fraud,” he said. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We lost over a half-billion dollars the day he went under. I personally put in money within three weeks of him going under. I know you look at me like I have a third head but I’m not stupid. I wouldn’t do that, risk my family’s money, if I thought he was doing anything wrong.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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