Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports gives his take on the state of the Wilpons as they head toward their March 19 trial date for the clawback suit from the trustree Irving Picard.
Selig is betting that the Mets’ picture will become clearer over the next several months, says Rosenthal, and Selig may be proved correct.
The way the Mets see it, they are on the verge of raising $200 million from minority investors. That money will help them pay back a $25 million loan to baseball, a $40 million bridge loan to Bank of America and part of a $375 million loan on the team.
The Mets also believe they will prevail over Irving Picard, the trustee for the victims of Bernard L. Madoff. Picard initially sought $1 billion in claims against Wilpon and his co-owner, Saul Katz, but U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff already has knocked down that figure.
Rakoff threw out most of Picard’s claims, leaving him to seek about $386 million. For Picard to claim more than about $83 million, he must prove that Wilpon and Katz were “willfully blind” to Madoff’s wrongdoing — something that the owners deny.
The trial is scheduled to begin March 19. Even a lesser judgment against Wilpon and Katz might not amount to $83 million, if the owners collect some or all of the $160 million they say they are due from the Madoff estate.
Another optimistic sign for the Mets, in the view of some industry observers, is that McCourt is likely to sell the Dodgers for more than $1.5 billion by April 1, the deadline for him to pick a new owner.
One industry expert says the Dodgers and Mets are not comparable; the Dodgers’ value is based in part on the billions they will command in their next local television contract, while the Mets are locked into a “last-era” deal with their own network, SNY.
Another insider, however, disagrees, saying the Dodgers’ deal will raise the value of the Mets to more than $2 billion, a number that, at the very least, would make banks more comfortable with the team as an asset.
Rosenthal says when you put it all together, the potential for fresh cash, minimal damage in the Madoff case and a high, post-Dodgers valuation, could be enough for Selig to give Wilpon every opportunity to get the Mets back on track.
Are there big obstacles that remain? Of course, but with the smart decision to bring CRG in, the Wilpons have already acted to stop the approximate $65 million a year in losses. The bridge loan has also helped a great deal and in two weeks the $200 million form those 4% stakes will close and stave off most of the incoming hits with about $50 million to spare.