What a big day for the Mets owners yesterday, huh? Mets fans I’ve spoke to and chatted with seem to have mixed feelings about yesterday’s events. But like I advise all my Mets buddies, stop worrying about what you can’t control and take your emotion out of the equation.
Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz were all smiles as they left the courthouse yesterday morning. Fred even pumped his fist defiantly in the air which kind of reminded me of George Costanza’s father on a Seinfeld episode shouting, “I’m back, baby!”
A lot has transpired in the last 24 hours, so let me update you on the Mets debt obligations for today and beyond. Believe me, it’s not the unreachable summit many make it out to be.
Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law Saul Katz, dodged a bullet yesterday. Not because the outcome of the trial would have gone against them, there was no chance of that happening. As I said before, the whistle-blower who was supposed to be Picard’s most damaging witness, was firing blanks and even Judge Rakoff knew it.
But credit the Mets owners for wasting no time in getting their affairs in order soon after they reached their settlement…
To begin, the approximate $30 million dollars they will end up owing after net loser claims are settled and accounted, is not payable until 2015.
In a very slick and stunning calculated move, the Mets closed the deal on $240 million dollars worth of minority stakes. That was 12 stakes at $20 million each, not the 4-6 stakes so many had inaccurately reported.
Yesterday, the Mets paid off their $25 million dollar loan from MLB. Bud Selig was gracious enough to extend the Mets owners some additional time to pay the loan back, and for that courtesy his longtime buddy Fred Wilpon tossed in a box of chocolates.
Additionally, the Mets also paid back the $40 million dollar bridge loan from Bank of America. This was the money that was intended to hold the Mets over until the sales of the ownership stakes closed, which of course they did.
The Mets now have $175 million left from the sales of the ownership stakes this morning. Here are the rest of the Mets debt obligations:
Each June and December, the Mets make two annual payments of approximately $20 million each for Citi Field. This is no different than the lease or loan payments that all MLB teams pay for the facilities they play in. The take on parking, merchandising and concessions alone, more than cover these semi-annual payments with plenty of profit to spare.
In 2014, the Mets have a debt payment due on the team which will be a portion of the remaining $430 million dollars in outstanding debt. It’s not unlike what other MLB teams owe as a percentage of their team’s value, most of whom maintain similar debt ceilings.
By the way, speaking of team values, this news item as reported by Bill Madden of the Daily News was widely under-reported last month.
For if the Dodgers wind up selling for $2 billion or more, the value of the Mets, a signature franchise in their own right, in the country’s largest media market with their own network and new stadium, despite their present hard times, have to be worth close to $3 billion.
Why do you think all those ownership stakes came through yesterday? Savvy investors know a good deal when they see one. I’m pretty sure none of them will be cashing those shares in for a 3% annual interest payment as quickly as some have reported. And if they do, the Wilpons will buy them back with pleasure.
2015 is another big year in terms of debt obligations for the Mets owners. A debt payment is due on the $450 million obligation against SNY – an obligation that is shared with partners Comcast and Time-Warner. Several sources have told me that this loan is adjustable and that if the Mets and their partners wanted to, they could refinance it for a further five years, but I’m sure Comcast and Time-Warner will make some sort of arrangements to pay a big portion of this debt down given their enormous financial clout and wherewithal.
That’s it. That’s all of the debt the Mets owners have on the books. That’s every penny of it.
As I speculated back on January 3rd, the primary function of bringing in CRG, was not to oversee a bankruptcy proceeding as many had hoped. That was a big bunch of malarkey.
Instead, they were bought in to help the Mets get out of the red and into the black. The Mets were losing $60-$70 million dollars per year and they needed experts like CRG to stop that bleeding and make the team profitable again.
To that end, the Mets slashed payroll by $50 million, reduced their workforce by 10%, and even eliminated one of their minor league affiliates. In one fell swoop they eliminated close to $65 million dollars in expenses.
They expect increased revenues through leasing parts of their academy in the Dominican Republic to other teams, marketing their 50 Year Anniversary with several events including the return of a fan favorite - Banner Day, but most importantly an influx of top prospects that with their promotions will infuse the fanbase with a renewed hope and confidence that the team is on the right path again. Credit Sandy Alderson for that.
One thing many overlook and I haven’t seen mentioned on other site’s summary of the Mets debt obligations, is the $340 million dollars the Mets are still owed by Citi Bank for the naming rights deal. Ahhh… You forgot that didn’t you? The Mets will still collect annual payments of $20 million through the year 2029.
So there you have it…
A complete overview of the Mets outstanding debts along with the steps they have taken on the advice of CRG to reduce expenses and boost revenues, and a road map to meeting all of their future obligations.
Oh and of course there’s one more thing…
The odd chance that the fans will flock to the park in droves once the era of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Famila begins in the next year or two. There’s nothing like some exciting prospects and some new faces of the franchise to restore a tarnished image. Just ask Frank Cashen, he can tell you more about that.