Mets Complete Sale of Minority Stakes in Bid to Pay Down Debt, Wilpon Says
New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon said the cash-strapped team has completed the sale of seven minority ownership shares, four of which went to the regional sports network owned by the team, Time Warner (TWC) Cable Inc. and Comcast (CMCSA) Corp.
The Mets are selling 10, $20 million shares, each representing about 4 percent of the Major League Baseball franchise. Seven of the buyers, all friends of the Wilpon family, have been approved by baseball. The other would-be investors are being vetted, said Wilpon, 75, who reiterated his intent to retain control of the franchise that he bought into in 1980, according to a transcript on ESPN.com. Wilpon spoke to reporters at the team’s spring-training home in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Andrew Fegyveresi, a spokesman for SNY, said network officials wouldn’t comment. Allen & Co.’s Steve Greenberg, who is handling the share sale for the team, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Billionaire hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors, who is among the bidders for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is among those investing in the Mets, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told Bloomberg News on Feb. 2. Wilpon didn’t identify the investors. Cohen would over time sell his interest in the Mets if he is chosen to own the Dodgers, the person said.
Wilpon said a portion of the $200 million generated by the sales will be used to repay a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball and a $40 million loan from Bank of America Corp.
Wilpon and co-owner Saul Katz face a $386 million lawsuit filed by the trustee representing victims of the Bernard Madoff scam. Irving Picard, the trustee, says Wilpon and Katz are sophisticate investors and should’ve known that Madoff was operating a Ponzi Scheme. Wilpon and Katz have denied the assertion.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff threw out most of Picard’s $1 billion lawsuit against the owners last year, saying he could pursue only $386 million.
Wilpon and Katz on Feb. 24 asked the judge to dismiss Picard’s suit. Rakoff said he would rule on the Mets owners’ dismissal request on March 5.
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