Mets make deal with Madoff trustee
The settlement avoids a civil trial for the club and means they'll have to pay far less than they otherwise might.
(Page 2 of 2)
"In a sense, we're now partners," Sheehan said outside court of the trustee and the defendants, whom Picard's lawyers had once criticized as men who turned a blind eye to every red flag of fraud before them as they withdrew $90 million of "other people's money" from the accounts of Ponzi schemer Madoff to cover day-to-day operations of the team.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But despite the brightening of skies, the Mets owners are not out of the woods.
They have paid back a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball and a $40 million loan to Bank of America, a person familiar with the team's finances said Monday night, speaking on condition of anonymity because no public statement was authorized. The team also closed on 12 limited partner shares of $20 million each, of which five were bought by newcomers and the rest by the current ownership group and its partners in the SNY cable network.
The team's on-field future remains murky, as well. The Mets have finished with a losing record for three straight seasons, and attendance at Citi Field declined from 3.15 million when it opened in 2009 to 2.35 million last year, the team's lowest home total since 2004.
General manager Sandy Alderson said the team lost $70 million last year, and the Mets' payroll has dropped from $142 million at the end of last season to about $95 million following the departures of All-Stars Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, the largest one-year drop in baseball history. Star third baseman David Wright is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, and the Mets could listen to trade offers this summer.
Still, the deal announced Monday left Wilpon and Katz, who together personally promised to guarantee $29 million for the trustee, speaking confidently of the team's future.
Katz said outside the courthouse that the Mets were on secure financial footing. "Always was," he said.
Wilpon said: "As we've said from the very beginning when this lawsuit started, we are not willfully blind, we never was, we acted in good faith, and we're very pleased that this settlement bears that out. That's very important to us."
As he stepped into a car, Wilpon declined to discuss how the settlement might affect the club's efforts to raise additional cash. Earlier, he said he was resuming work at "trying to bring the New York Mets back to prominence."
The road to a settlement may have been paved weeks ago when Rakoff ruled Picard could try to recoup only $386 million from the Mets owners.
Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who acted as mediator, said the settlement lets Picard focus on 800 pending lawsuits against those who profited from their investment with Madoff.
He said Picard and the Mets owners "avoided the risks and uncertainty of ... a long, bitter and expensive trial" in a deal that was fair and reasonable.
"Nobody gets everything they want in a settlement. But both sides helped their causes," Cuomo said.