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How much financial trouble are the Wilpons in?

Jan 28, 2011, 4:36 PM EDT

mets logo hat AP

The speculation surrounding today’s announcement that the Wilpons are looking to sell a stake in the Mets has included chatter about just how hard the government is going after them as a result of the Bernie Madoff mess.  The short version: the lawsuit filed against the Wilpons is to “claw back” money that Madoff gave to the Wilpons that, in reality, had been taken from investors farther down the pyramid.  And no, it doesn’t matter if the Wilpons knew it was stolen money (which they apparently did not).

Against that backdrop came this tweet from Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post:

One of my sources from #Mets beat told me gov’t seeking $1B(!) clawback from Wilpon/Katz. No way they can keep the team if that’s true.

Hubbuch’s numbers are corroborated by Ken Belson of the New York Times, who has considerably more background here.

Even if these numbers are not accurate, however, the key point is clear: the Wilpons’ current financial situation is going to be directly impacted by how much the government is seeking in its clawback lawsuit. If it’s anything close to figure Hubbuch is reporting, they will have to sell way more than a minority share in the Mets.  Indeed, they’ll likely have to sell the whole team.

*Note: In an earlier version of this post I had referred to Hubbuch as “an NFL writer.”  Which he currently is. I was unaware, however, that was previously on the Mets beat.  I’m told that he has been following the Madoff/Wilpon story closely and that his previous tweets about the situation have been accurate. Apologies to Hubbuch for my dubiousness.

  1. gravytrain56 - Jan 28, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    http://defendingthecore.blogspot.com/2011/01/thoughts-on-wilpons-predicament.html

  2. bigharold - Jan 28, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    It seemed clear last year when it was announced that the Wilpon’s were “successful” investors with Madoff that they were going to have to give that money back, whether they liked it or not, .. and whether they had it or not.

    But, it’s been reported that the Wilpon’s only made about 45-50 million investing with that thief. I’m not sure that they could be forced to give back more than that amount, (of course I could be wrong as frequently where the law is concerned common sense isn’t so common). Assuming that it’s ONLY 50 million, that still a lot of coin that I doubt even the Wilpon’s can scare up quickly.

  3. phillysoulfan - Jan 29, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    bigharold, any gains made off of money that is obtained illegally is also fair game. So if the Wilpons received $50 million from Madoff, that was obtained illegally, and that $50 million made another $150 million, the Wilpons would have to give back $200 million.

    The question I have is did any of that money go to the Mets?

    • hdustinbing - Feb 21, 2011 at 4:36 AM

      I’d love to see how ANYONE could prove that future investment gains was directly related to specific amounts. So, if they made $50 million from the Madoff scam, and then a year later they have investments that made $150 million in profit, how would they proven that that $150 million was from Madoff money? They couldn’t.

  4. nc1616 - Jan 31, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Let me start by saying I really like this blog. I have a minor nit, however, on these Mets/Madoff posts. You’ve indicated a few times that the Mets are facing suit, or somehow owe money to, “the governement” related to the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Unless I missed something, that’s not the case. Obviously, one could argue that a bankruptcy trustee fills some kind of quasi-governmental role, but that’s a far cry from the Mets being suied by the SEC, DOJ etc…, which the langauge in some of these posts (unintentially, I suspect) indicate. Thanks.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 31, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      Fair point. Laziness on my part. And the fact that, as a dumb civil litigator, bankruptcy law has always frightened and confused me.

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