Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Legacy of Fred Wilpon

I'm sure you've all heard the Mets' latest news conference and/or read the growing number of articles from newspapers that are painting a picture of the Mets latest woes. But let me recap in my own words...
Mets owner, Fred Wilpon, a longtime friend of swindler Bernard Madoff, has found that he needs some money to help keep the Mets running as a first class organization. It's been widely reported that a mega-buck lawsuit has been filed against Mr. Wilpon in relation to the money he made investing with his friend.

Let me go on record and state this - I think within a year, the Wilpon family will no longer control the New York Mets. I really do think this lawsuit, and other Madoff-related business will result in the Wilpons needing to sell at least 50% of the Mets ballclub, and maybe closer to 100% of it. I can almost see Fred Wilpon walking out of the ballpark in tears of shame over this (if he hasn't already - remember, Wilpon and Son have kept saying that the Madoff business doesn't impact the Mets business, and somehow, trying to sell about 25% of the club to raise cash is some sort of impact).

Fred Wilpon, for 31 years, has had an owership stake in the New York Mets, purchasing a 5% share, along with Doubleday publishing, in 1980 from Joan Payson's heirs. Fred Wilpon worked his way up to 50% in the fall of 1986 when Doubleday publishing was sold (in a move that wasn't supposed to change anything about Mets' operations, and Nelson Doubleday, as a person, became co-owner, instead of being an owner through his company). In 2002, Wilpon bought out Nelson Doubleday to gain full control of the club and installed his son in a high-level position.

In that time, the Mets have never been able to sustain winning for long periods of time, usually falling down to very low lows after coming oh so close.

I never liked Fred or Jeff Wilpon. I'm sure Fred Wilpon is a fine man, and I'm sure he's a good real estate person (where he has built up his fortune). But he was never a good baseball man. His son is even worse at it (at least Fred has skills outside of the Mets). But I never thought of either of them as crooks (well, stealing our money for that brick thing they call a ballpark for what they call a "team", but that's not at issue here). They probably aren't crooks, Fred was just associated with one. But it's going to cost them billions and a legacy.

The Madoff scandal's effect on the Mets is going to be much worse than originally thought. And the way the Mets have been run, and how they have played over the past few years is going to make things much much worse for Wilpon and Son.

It was asked in the press conference on Friday (which you can read here) what you can get for your millions of dollars for a non-controlling piece of the ballclub. Like most of the answers, they seemed to me like they were all non-answers (I'll excuse the ones where they couldn't answer because of pending legal matters).

So why would you want to spend that kind of money to get in bed with the Wilpons here? I think the answer is to be able to gain a larger stake in the club, maybe a controlling stake. Aside from that, I can't see any upside, especially in this economy. It was already stated that the Wilpons have tried to sell off part of the club to raise cash to no avail. Of course, this whole thing is about them seeking help, but I think it will be tough. The price will drive down, or in order to get the money they need, they have to sell off more. This is why I think this will eventually lead to the Wilpons no longer being in control of the Mets within a year. Remember, they continually denied (lied?) that Madoff would have any effect on the Mets ballclub, and here we are.

I see the Wilpons in a position to have to sell more of the club to get what they want. Maybe they know it. Maybe they're denying it. Maybe that have a plan.

Now let me ask this...would you rather see a brand-name come in with a smaller piece of the club (say 25%) and then this person comes in to bail out the Wilpons again buying another 25% (or more), or would you rather see a silent partner come in, basically with cash?

Leave a comment or drop me a line at DyHrdMET [at] gmail [dot] com. "Like" RememberingShea on Facebook (the function formerly known as "Becoming a Fan"). Become a Networked Blog