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Mets Said to Anticipate Bidder Interest in Coming Days

The New York Mets expect to receive letters of intent in the coming days from potential bidders for a minority stake in the baseball team, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

Major League Baseball has determined that 12 to 15 parties are qualified to receive access to confidential financial information from the Mets, said one of the people, who declined to be identified because the process isn’t public. The Mets’ owners, the Wilpon family, have discussed selling a 25 percent stake, though may consider selling as much as 49 percent, the person said.

Any letters of intent should be in by next week, the person said. They are likely to include rough estimates of how much a bidder is willing to pay for a stake in the Mets contingent on further due diligence, according to the person.

Issues such as whether a buyer would get board seats remain to be determined, said one of the people.

Patrick Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, and Jay Horwitz, a spokesman for the Mets, declined to comment. The New York Post reported on the bidding process earlier this week.

Some potential bidders have held back and not sought major-league approval, waiting to see if a majority stake in the team is eventually put on the block, said one of the people familiar with the matter. It is not clear how many parties will make bids.

The Mets are worth $747 million, 13 percent less than a year ago, Forbes magazine said March 23 in its annual analysis of major-league team valuations. A sale of 25 percent to 49 percent would be worth $187 million to $366 million, based on the Forbes figures.

Money Sought

Trustee Irving Picard, who is liquidating the business of jailed Ponzi-scheme operator Bernard L. Madoff, wants to recover $300 million in alleged phony profits 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.

Madoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges, is serving 150 years in prison for the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Investors lost about $20 billion in principal, Picard has said. Authorities have collected almost $10 billion for victims.

Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz said March 20 in an e-mailed news release that Picard concocted his allegations against them to force a settlement, describing the accusations as a “work of fiction.”

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, father of the state’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo, was appointed Feb. 10 to mediate the dispute between Picard and the Sterling defendants. The mediation process is ongoing.

Some Interested

Those who expressed interest in buying the Mets outright after the Wilpons in January announced plans to sell a piece of the team were billionaire real-estate developer Donald Trump and Michael Repole, the co-founder of Glaceau Vitaminwater sports drink, which was sold to Coca-Cola Co. for $4.1 billion in 2007. Repole said in a March 6 interview that he wouldn’t consider bidding for a stake without having a say in the team’s operations.

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