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There is no guarantee that the Wilpons will be able to keep control of the Mets

Jan 28, 2011, 1:36 PM EDT

Tom Hicks

Forgive me if I’m not optimistic about the Wilpons’ chances of finding “strategic partners” who will gladly fork over millions in exchange for a minority share of the team, leaving the Wilpons in control. Why am I skeptical? Because the last time a baseball owner was in deep financial trouble and sought minority investors, it didn’t quite turn out the way he planned:

“I’ve been quietly looking for minority investors to come back into the ownership of the Rangers as a way to be prudent in a bad economy,” [Tom] Hicks said. “I’m doing the same thing with the Stars. At the end of the day, I’ll still have 51-to-60 percent of the ballclub and have new partners. That doesn’t change anything.

A little less than a year later Tom Hicks was being squeezed out completely while Mark Cuban and Chuck Greenberg fought tooth-and-nail for total control of the Texas Rangers.

It’s just a simple fact of investment life:  minority shares in non-public entities are not worth anything close to what a controlling interest is worth.  Perhaps the Mets, who likely have a much better potential cashflow than most teams, will still be an attractive investment who is merely interested in saying they own a piece of the team.  But if the Rangers example is any indication, there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of people who want to be silent partners when the majority owner asking for a handout is in financial distress.

The Mets are an extremely valuable property. Their owners are in financial trouble.  This is what most savvy investors call “an opportunity.”  It strains credulity to think that people won’t make some offers for control of the Mets that the Wilpons find awfully hard to refuse.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Jan 28, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    Baseball ownership is either a very expensive hobby or an uncompromising desire to present the best product possible to fan loyalty, civic pride, and advancement of America’s Pastime. We know which owners have their priorities toward the latter.
    On the other hand, I seem to remember a minority stake that came out fairly well.
    Quite bluntly: The New York sports arena is not well served with ownership of the Wilpon and Dolan variety.

    • Kevin S. - Jan 28, 2011 at 2:34 PM

      It’s not that their aren’t minority stakes, it’s that teams aren’t rushing to give their money to people who have proven they suck with it and then not have a say in what happenes.

    • sdelmonte - Jan 28, 2011 at 2:44 PM

      Except…and this is heresy, I know…the Dolans are currently overseeing two franchises who are having really good years, with the potential for great years to come.

      What New York isn’t served well by is stupid owners. Same as anyplace else. And there is always the chance that an owner will wise up. We saw it when Steinbrenner stopped micromanaging and turned an occasional winner into a perennial favorite.

      That said, fresh blood at CitiField might not be that bad a thing.

  2. sdelmonte - Jan 28, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Shared ownership can work. It’s rare, but it has been working for years at the Meadowlands, where the other Giants have been more successful divided between the Mara and Tisch families than they were under just one family. I have no idea how the Maras and Tisches make it work, especially since the men who formed the partnership are no longer around. But a model for creating a thriving partnership out of what started as an investment opportunity as much as anything else.

  3. BC - Jan 28, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    Paging Mark Cuban….. Mr. Cuban….

    • Kevin S. - Jan 28, 2011 at 3:13 PM

      Co-sign. Much as I enjoy the Mutts’ misery, this man needs a baseball team, and I’d love for a there to be an actual cross-town rivalry again.

  4. Dan in Katonah - Jan 28, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    It is particularly distressing as a Mets fan to see Wilpon with a cup in his hand trying to drum up some cash. This team should not be run like a small to mid market club. If he and his brood can’t pony up the bucks to compete with the Phillies and the Yankees and Red Sox, then sell the team to someone who can. Shit or get off the pot, Fred.

  5. BC - Jan 28, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    SELL THE TEAM!!!! SELL THE (POLY-SYLLABIC EXPLITIVE) TEAM!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!

    • Old Gator - Jan 28, 2011 at 3:56 PM

      I’d sell the team to Mark Cuban if he promised to make Wally Backman manager. Two days later, no one would even remember that Terry Collins had been there. Nor should they.

      • BC - Jan 28, 2011 at 4:16 PM

        No Backman. No. Fail! Fail!
        If Cuban bought the team I wouldn’t care who managed the team – not Backman though, my god, he’d be like handing a 15 year old the keys to a Porsche Boxster and a couple 40-oz bottles of Haffenreffer and saying ‘here, go have fun’.

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