Ever since the Bernie Madoff scandal rocked the nation late in 2008, the Mets have been in serious financial distress. Mets owner Fred Wilpon, who was reported to have lost about 700 million in the scandal, was a good friend of Bernie Madaoff for many years.
A short time later, reports started surfacing that the Wilpons might have no choice but be forced to sell the Mets. In December of 2010, the Mets CEO was named in a $1 billion lawsuit filed by Irving Picard on behalf of some of the victims of Madoff’s investment scam. One month after the lawsuit was filed, the pressure on the organization was building and Wilpon offered to sell 20-25% of the team to offset pending losses due to litigation. It was revealed early on that Wilpon and his partner Saul Katz utilized Madoff in running the Mets’ finances. It was a common practice to negotiate deferred money into player’s contracts and then put that money with Madoff to invest because they were thereby able to make money for themselves before paying players.
In a prison interview, Madoff claimed that his long time friend Wilpon knew nothing about his Ponzi scheme. In November of 2010, another good friend of Fred wilpon and MLB commissioner Bud Selig lent the Mets $25 million to shore up their finances. On May 26, 2011, after sorting out candidates, Wilpon agreed to sell a minority share of his beloved Mets to David Einhorn who is the president of the hedge fund Green light Capital, but negotiations ended on September 1. The Mets did receive some good news in November when they were approved for a loan of $40 million from Bank of America. However, MLB is keeping a close eye on the situation and is prepared to take control of the team if Wilpon defaults on the loan.
The Madoff scandal has also taken its toll on the NY Mets fan base which saw some of its best players depart due the organization financial woes. All-star closer Francisco Rodriguez was traded during the break because the Mets could not afford to pay him $17 million next season. All-star outfielder Carlos Beltran was traded in July since his seven-year contract was set to expire at season’s end. And then there’s the franchise’s cornerstone, shortstop Jose Reyes who excited Mets fans in every ball park he played in. Unfortunately, the Mets weren’t able to pay him anywhere close to what he was worth and Reyes moved on to play for the Marlins. Rumors are also spreading that superstar third baseman David Wright might be the next to go.