Friday, February 4, 2011

New Sports Illustrated Column: Will Mets Owner Fred Wilpon Settle Complaint from Madoff Victims?

I have a new SI column on the complaint filed by victims of Bernie Madoff against Mets owner Fred Wilpon, and what it means for the future of the Mets. The complaint was unsealed today. Here is an excerpt from the column:

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A settlement might also benefit Wilpon from the standpoint of his coveted position as an owner of a major league franchise. For one, his team would likely be handicapped by a drawn-out litigation. There would be resulting uncertainties as to how much the team could spend, especially on players. For instance, how would the team approach contract discussions with prized shortstop Jose Reyes, who is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2011 season, if the team's owner might be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in the Madoff fallout? Or how would the Mets approach trade offers for ace Johan Santana, who is due a guaranteed $72 million over the next three seasons? And would the team be forced to change its draft strategy to one that involves drafting a larger percentage of amateur players who would be cheaper to sign over more talented, but expensive prospects?

A settlement might also prove beneficial to Wilpon as a big league owner because of Picard's assertion that $90 million from Madoff's fund was used to finance the Mets. If true, such an assertion could cause substantial problems for Wilpon in his relationship with other big league owners and with the commissioner's office. It would mean that Madoff's victims -- many of whom lost their life savings to Madoff's Ponzi scheme -- effectively paid the salaries of million-dollar Mets players.

Empowered with his "best interests of the game" authority, and also with language from the franchise agreement Wilpon signed with Major League Baseball when he purchased the Mets, Selig could potentially discipline Wilpon and encourage him to leave the fraternity of big league owners -- a move that could be facilitated if other big league owners shared the view that Wilpon should not be among them. . . .

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To read the rest, click here.