The Wilpon family, owners of the New York Mets, said they are looking to sell off a portion of the team as the result of a lawsuit filed against Sterling Equities by the trustee of Bernard Madoff’s bankruptcy filing.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon and his son and Mets chief operating officer, Jeff Wilpon, said “uncertainty” about the Madoff suit, which was filed under seal in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, led to their decision to seek co-owners of the Flushing franchise.
Sterling Equities is owned by the Wilpons and Saul Katz, Fred Wilpon’s brother-in-law, who own the Mets.
Madoff, a Rockaway native, pleaded guilty in 2008 to running the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, which defrauded investors of some $65 billion.
“As Sterling Equities announced in December, we are engaged in discussions to settle a lawsuit brought against us and other Sterling partners and members of our families by the trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy,” the Wilpons said in a statement issued Friday. “We are not permitted to comment on these confidential negotiations while they are ongoing.
“However, to address the air of uncertainty created by the lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number of potential options, including the addition of one or more strategic partners.”
But the Wilpons, who co-own the Mets along with Fred Wilpon’s brother-in-law, Saul Katz, said they were seeking an agreement that would keep them as majority owners of the baseball club.
“Regardless of the outcome of this exploration, Sterling will remain the principal ownership group of the Mets and continue to control and manage the team’s operations,” they said. “The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years and that is not going to change.”
A Mets spokesman would not comment on the interest a group led by Martin Luther King III has in buying a stake in the team.
King is reportedly part of a prospective investor group that contains former Met great Ed Kranepool.
Madoff, a graduate of Far Rockaway High School, is serving a 120-year prison sentence for the Ponzi scheme in a Butner, N.C., prison.
Madoff promised returns of up to 20 percent for his investors, but federal investigators found that none of the money was invested and Madoff used more recent investors’ funds to pay his earliest investors.
Madoff’s son, Mark Madoff, committed suicide in December in connection with the fraud.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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