Part of being a New York Mets fan is accepting frequent on-field failure and front office ineptitude. These aren’t easy things to get accustomed to when your cross-town rival is the winning-est franchise in professional sports history. Neither is watching your team go from title contender to whipping boy due to a Ponzi scheme.
Mets fans expect botched double-plays, dropped pop-ups and runners getting thrown out trying to steal second base. And as if the on-field incompetence isn’t enough, our medical staff often misdiagnoses injuries and upper-level management has a habit of giving mediocre players monumental contracts, not to mention jettisoning young talent for washed up veterans.
Nevertheless the problem doesn’t lie solely with the piss poor product on the field. Like any other unsuccessful company the real issue starts at the top with the ownership — and the Mets have a couple of real winners in that department. The Wilpon family and Saul Katz’s high-profile involvement with Bernie Madoff in the wake of his Ponzi scheme made him obvious targets of Irving Picard, the man in charge of recovering the lost money.
Over the course of the past few years the New York Mets have been run into the ground by the financial clumsiness of the Wilpons and Katz. Their stupidity has forced the Mets to cut 10s of millions of dollars in payroll and given the team zero flexibility with their ability to sign top free agents. Since Madoff’s indictment the Wilpons have been in and out of courtrooms and meetings with lawyers due to the fact they made money from Madoff, without knowledge of the Ponzi scheme.
Today, those meetings have finally come to a halt.
The owners of the New York Mets baseball team have agreed to pay $162 million to settle a lawsuit against them seeking to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, moments before a civil trial was expected to begin.
Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee for Mr. Madoff’s firm, had sued the Mets owners, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, as well as their families and business associates for more than $300 million they invested with Mr. Madoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges three years ago.
As part of the settlement announced in Manhattan federal court Monday, the Mets owners won’t have to make a payment for three years. Instead, they will surrender any recoveries from their claims against the bankruptcy estate, which amount to about $178 million.
After three years, the Mets will make payments to the estate to cover any amounts not resolved by their claim recoveries. Messrs. Wilpon and Katz will personally guarantee up to $29 million of the settlement.
According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, the Wilpons are far from putting all of this behind them. The franchise is still buried in debt and unless the Mets can make money from attendance they’ll continue to stay that way. It’s hard to convince fans to go to games when on the field isn’t winning any.
So for now the Wilpons appear to have officially dodged Irving Picard’s potentially lethal bullet and will continue to bury the once proud franchise even further into the dirt.