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The Mets and Madoff: “Bernie was part of the business plan for the Mets”

Feb 2, 2011, 6:18 AM EDT

Fred Wilpon

Fred Wilpon has insisted since 2008 that the Bernie Madoff mess had little impact on the Mets’ baseball operations.  Even since last week, when it was announced that he would have to sell part of the team due to the Madoff losses, the sense has been that they are exclusively personal losses and that since the team is the Wilpons’ largest asset it was logical that he turn to the team for his capital needs.

There’s an article in today’s New York Times, however, which tells a far different story: Bernie Madoff and his investments were deeply involved in the Mets, and the Mets operations were highly dependent on Bernie Madoff:

When the Mets negotiated their larger contracts with star players — complex deals with signing bonuses and performance incentives — they sometimes adopted the strategy of placing deferred money owed the players with Mr. Madoff’s investment firm. They would have to pay the player, but the owners of the club would be able to make money for themselves in the meantime. There never seemed to be much doubt about that, according to several people with knowledge of the arrangements.

“Bernie was part of the business plan for the Mets,” a former employee of the club said … interviews with current and former associates of Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz, as well as former employees of the club, former employees of Mr. Madoff and others, make it clear that the relationship was substantial and that the role Mr. Madoff played in the financial life of the ball club and the Wilpon and Katz families was pervasive.

The more damning part of the article, however, involves the way that the Wilpons would steer friends and even Mets employees to Madoff investments.  Indeed, former Mets GM Frank Cashen says that his deferred compensation package after leaving the Mets was invested with Madoff.  He was paid before the bottom fell out, but he says that Wilpon and Madoff worked “in unison” he says that Wilpon and his partner Saul Katz worked “in unison” to push Mets employees to invest in Madoff securities. That famous Bobby Bonilla deferred money deal was also invested with Madoff.  Madoff also reportedly got many of his investors via introductions from Fred Wilpon, who the bankruptcy trustee suing him alleged knew or should have known that Madoff was a scam artist.

If what the many sources of this article say is true, the Wilpons are more than the victims they’ve made themselves out to be.  They were an important part of Madoff’s operation, whether they themselves knew the nature of the operation or whether they simply placed stupid blind faith in their close friend.

And there is no question that, by virtue of placing team-related investments with Madoff, the financial prospects of the Mets — and not just the Wilpons — was deeply harmed as a result.

  1. adrianbk - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:04 AM

    Hardly a surprise there for Wilpon and Madoff. Nice cozy arrangement I’m sure until it turned out one of them (………insert name here) was a complete fantasist covering up years of shockingly bad investments, lack of forward planning and an inability to tell the truth while operating their puppet theatre of self-promotion.

    • Adam - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:51 AM

      Do you understand what Madoff did? He didn’t make bad investments, he just didn’t make investments, period. The way he’d pay out clients was by getting money from new clients.

      So there weren’t “years of shockingly bad investments” or a “lack of forward planning”. It was just a giant ass ripping people off.

      My last job I worked for someone who was busted for running something very close to a Ponzi scheme and I can say, people will blindly put money with someone who has any form of fame, regardless of how small it is. Very, very few people do their due diligence on a company, they take the salesman’s word 99% of the time. It’s sad how easily people are conned.

  2. kiwicricket - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    Hope all those fancy free lunches were worth it Freddy.

  3. largebill - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    Like everyone, I have no specific information about this mess, but reading the tea leaves tells me it will only get worse. They may be saying they are only looking for minority investors, but by this time next year I fully expect this team to be sold or to be under control of the league. If they were using the Madoff “dividends” to cover operating expenses and now the Ponzi dividends are dried up and the assets they were based upon are gone it is hard to imagine Wilpon surviving with control of the team.

    The uglier details starting to come out is story of employees/players being steered to invest with Madoff. I may be overly cautious, but I live by the adage of “don’t mix business & pleasure” to an extreme. Don’t mix your personal finances with work finances. Don’t have your own company’s stock in your 401K. Don’t do business with family. If you loan money to a relative just consider it a gift so you won’t be pissed when it doesn’t get paid back (not to bring my sister & her husband into the conversation). Don’t ever, ever, ever, give stock tips to people at work, family, acquaintances, etc. In other words don’t give stock tips to anyone you want to remain on good terms with if the tip doesn’t work out. I understand the desire to share. You’re either (like with Madoff) getting great returns or expecting this speculative stock to be the next GOOG, AAPL, AMZN, etc. Thing is most speculative investments are very risky and not likely to survive let alone soar.

    Back to baseball, I’m glad I’m not a Mets fan right now as this will get much worse before it gets better.

  4. Jonny 5 - Feb 2, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    First of all, I must tip my hat to Bobby Bonilla. He’s a magician. Turning 6 million into 30 million is no small feat for any investor let alone an athlete. I’d say the Wilpons have their heads up their own a$$es, way past the ears. How do you expect to magically turn 6 million into 30 million? Oh yeah, Bernie Madoff? A guy who can’t show you where the money is being made? Yeah……

    If the Wilpons are able to file for bankruptcy, does this harm Bonilla’s deferred payment plan?

    • Professor Longnose - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:48 AM

      The Bonilla thing is interesting. It isn’t really that hard to turn $6 million into $30 million if you have 30 years to wait. You invest it at a reasonable interest rate, and voila, there it is.

      But this may explain why the Mets at the time thought it was a good deal. They would have to pay some reasonable interest rate, but they thought they could then invest the money and get an unreasonably high interest rate back from the Madoff fund. It sort of makes sense for the first time.

      • Jonny 5 - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:16 AM

        True Mr. Longnose, I was thinking more in terms of now, not long term. But when you put it that way it does seem more managable.

  5. Jonny 5 - Feb 2, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    Another team in financial distress, the Dodgers.

    They will pay out 16.3 million in 2011 for players who are not with the team anymore.

    Manny Ramirez $7.67 million
    Juan Pierre $3.5 million
    Andruw Jones $3.37 million
    Jason Schmidt $1.5 million
    Brad Ausmus $150,000
    Octavio Dotel $125,000

    So while Manny appears to be taking a huge pay cut to play in Fla. he’s more than likely thinking “it ain’t so bad, I’m still getting paid.” Plus, nearly 2 million a year from the BoSox.

  6. yankeesfanlen - Feb 2, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    The Wilpons should have put it all on CrazyLegs in the third at Aquaduct. His father was a mudder.

    • Professor Longnose - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      His mother was a mudder!

  7. BC - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    Great. Bonilla ends up getting paid until he’s 60 years old, the team has too much money locked up in players already on the roster who with a couple exceptions suck. This is gonna be a long decade.
    PAGING MARK CUBAN!!!!!

  8. chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Wow, Craig, you really do have it in for the Mets. Your loyalty as a Braves fan really show.

    You badly misquoted the NYT’s article in an effort to try to smear Wilpon. When Cashen said “they operated in unison,” he was talking about Saul Katz and Wilpon, NOT Wilpon and Madoff. Big big difference.

    Your attempt to try to tie Wilpon in with Madoff’s scheme falls flat. Wonder why you didn’t quote Madoff’s secretary who said she was “convinced” Wilpon had no knowledge of the ponzi scheme. Or that Fred Wilpon wasn’t really part of Madoff’s chummy clique.

    There has been no evidence to date that Wilpon or Katz had any knowledge of Madoff’s ponzi scheme. Any attempt to say otherwise is smearing a good person’s name. Wilpon and Katz and their friends were victims of Madoff (albeit rich victims). Put away your Braves pom-poms.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:59 AM

      Nowhere have I said that the Wilpons knew that Madoff was scamming people. The bankruptcy trustee has alleged, however, that they “either knew or should have known.” I have repeated that allegation and have noted it as an allegation.

      You make a good point about the “unison” quote and I will clarify it in the post, but to be clear: Cashen was saying that Wilpon and Katz worked in unison to push Madoff investments, so it’s not like it absolves Wilpon of anything.

      And forgive me if I don’t quote the secretary — the one dissenting voice re: the Wilpon-Madoff relationship — rather than go with the multiple other sources in the article that say otherwise.

      And on what planet do you think that my criticism of any of this has anything to do with my rooting interest? Or do you forget that I’ve raked the Braves’ corporate ownership — and their CEO’s $75 million compensation last year — over the coals in the past? I’m not some churl who tries to pump up the team he roots for and slam the competition.

      Or do you really not see any reason for criticizing the Wilpons in any of this?

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:12 AM

        Craig. There is a big difference between Wilpon acting in unison with Madoff (and what that implies) and Wilpon acting in unison with his brother-in-law and business partner.

        Wilpon acting in unison with Katz is old news which has been widely reported for years. Wilpon and Katz recommending Madoff investments to friends is also OLD news. They got their friends Sandy Koufax and Tim Teufel to invest with Madoff, after all. Actually, this is virtually proof that they didn’t know it was a scam. If they knew it was a scam, they are not going to be recommending it to friends.

        Also, the secretary’s quotes in the NYT’s article are not contradictory to what others have said of the Wilpon-Madoff relationship. She simply clarifies it. Wilpon and Madoff were friends, but Wilpon wasn’t in Madoff’s closest inner circle (and those are the people who should have known about the scheme, not those on the outside).

        Of course there is a lot to criticize the Wilpons over this. Fred Wilpon is known for being overly loyal to the point of blindness and stupidity. He was this way with Omar Minaya. And it’s this stupidity/loyalty that got him in trouble with Madoff. He didn’t think to question someone he knew personally and was friends with. But to suggest he had knowledge it was a scam and was somehow responsible for the scam — like you and some others have suggested — is incorrect and unfair. I know how good it must sound to a Braves fan, but stick to the facts.

    • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:01 AM

      “He was paid before the bottom fell out, but he says that Wilpon and Madoff worked “in unison.””

      The above quote from Calcaterra is the one that is factually incorrect. He misquoted/misread the New York Times article in his eagerness to smear Wilpon. The quote from Frank Cashen was referring to Wilpon and his brother-in-law Saul Katz. NOT Wilpon and Madoff.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:03 AM

        It’s already been fixed. And again, Wilpon and Katz worked ‘in unison” in promoting Madoff investments is what the article says. I’m not sure how that makes them look any better here.

        If there’s a way this post is a smear — with “smear” — defined as anything other than “I don’t like reading bad things about the team I like,” I’m eager to hear your explanation.

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:22 AM

        Craig, Wilpon and Katz are brothers-in-law and business partners. They work in unison on virtually everything. When they hired a new GM and chose Alderson, Wilpon and Katz had equal votes too. They are also reported to be best friends. There is absolutely nothing new in that. The fact that they worked in unison is pretty irrelevant to that NYT’s article.

        The reason I’m bringing this up is not to say this necessarily mitigates anything regarding Madoff, but simply to correct your false statement that Cashen said Madoff and Wilpon worked in unison. That would imply that Wilpon was involved in engineering the ponzi scheme. That is a smear. Libelous.

        So, no, smear doesn’t mean I don’t like reading negative things about my team. It means I don’t like reading things about my team that are damming and untrue.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:28 AM

        I would submit, then, that your problem is less with me than the New York Times. Because my post (now that I have fixed that one bit) is on all fours with that they’re reporting. Most people who have read it this morning — including other people in the media and around baseball — think this is news.

        There have not been strong suggestions that the Mets’ actual investments in things like deferred compensation were tied up with Madoff. They believed that the Wilpons personally took a bath. Unless you believe that Times is lying about this, that belief is being countered by this story.

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        Craig, my issue is with BOTH you and the NYT’s. Because both of you keep trying to tie Fred Wilpon and Katz in with the ponzi scheme itself. Both of you are trying to imply some sort of impropriety or unethical behavior.

        So, no, my issue with the NYT’s is NOT that they say the Wilpons “took a bath” on this. I think they did too. It is how they are characterizing the Wilpons involvement in the ponzi scheme itself.

      • phillysoulfan - Feb 2, 2011 at 4:03 PM

        “Wilpon acting in unison with Katz is old news which has been widely reported for years. Wilpon and Katz recommending Madoff investments to friends is also OLD news. They got their friends Sandy Koufax and Tim Teufel to invest with Madoff, after all. Actually, this is virtually proof that they didn’t know it was a scam. If they knew it was a scam, they are not going to be recommending it to friends.”

        Exactly how does recommending investments with Madoff to friends prove that Wilpon knew NOTHING about it? That’s what scam artists due. They take money from people, whether it’s a stranger, family member, or friend.

        Assuming Wilpon was not in on it and is a victim, it still doesn’t prove that he should have known about it.

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:25 PM

        “Exactly how does recommending investments with Madoff to friends prove that Wilpon knew NOTHING about it?”

        Because it’s common sense. Assuming that Fred Wilpon is a decent and honest person who has long cultivated friendships that he values (and everything everyone’s ever written or said about him supports that characterization), he is not going to recommend to friends and family that they get involved in an ILLEGAL scheme that could cause them legal, personal and financial problems.

        If this ever came to a civil trial, I’m sure a jury of reasonable people would think the same thing.

    • paperlions - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:29 AM

      Any smart person knows that returns on investments that seem to good to be true almost always are too good to be true. Anyone with financial savvy, would have strongly questioned what was going on. Who blindly takes 15% on their investments without ever questioning how it was being done?
      .
      The “in unison” comment is unclear, Wilpon, Madoff, and Katz are all mentioned in the preceding sentence, it could be interpreted to mean that all 3 worked in unison. Regardless, it is clear that the Wilpon-Madoff relationship was very close and Wilpon steered many people to invest with Madoff.
      .
      Like most people that should have known better, the Wilpon’s didn’t ask detailed questions about their apparent golden goose because they didn’t really want to know, they just wanted it to continue.

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 11:05 AM

        Well then people with NASDAQ and the SEC are pretty dumb too, right? Because they all saw what was going on in terms of earnings — and had the power and responsibility to investigate this, unlike Wilpon — and didn’t question Madoff’s returns either, right? No one really did a thing, even after one voice in the financial community did speak up. So if the SEC and NASDAQ saw nothing wrong with Madoff, why should Wllpon have? I guess Madoff investors like Steven Speilberg are pretty dumb too, right?

        As for Craig’s misquote, no, I don’t think that portion of the NYT’s article was unclear at all. I think Craig just read it the way he wanted to. That portion was as clear as day, as
        Cashen’s response was to the explicit question of “whether it was Mr. Wilpon or Mr. Katz who was more likely to push the idea of investing with Mr. Madoff,”

        It’s highly subjective to say whether the Wilpons should have known better. Especially when you consider Wilpon was personal friends with Madoff. So there was a basis for trust to begin with. And especially when you consider Madoff duped NASDAQ, the SEC, and thousands of other investors including supposedly bright people like Steven Speilberg.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 2, 2011 at 11:20 AM

        Yeah, I’m so biased and have such a hard-on to make Wilpon look bad that I changed the mistaken part within one minute of it being pointed out. Perhaps my misquote had more to do with the fact that I started writing it before 6AM and less to do with my anti-Mets bias? Oh, heavens no, that couldn’t be it.

        That aside, I think you are way more fixated on Wilpon blame than I am. I have not accused him of complicity. The bankruptcy trustee has implied it. The bankruptcy trustee could be plain wrong. The Times story said that Wilpon steered people towards Wilpon. That is more serious in the context of this kind of lawsuit than simply being a simply victim like Speilberg or whoever, who has not been sued like this.

        And no matter what you think about this, the fact is that it all has major implications for the Mets. And this is a baseball blog, so the implications for a baseball team is newsworthy.

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 11:55 AM

        Craig, please write all Mets stories after 9 AM and AFTER you’ve had your morning coffee. Yes, I do think you’re biased against the Mets. So when you’re writing in a haze, then any mistakes you make are likely to be against the Mets.

        I think the tenor of your article and the fact you initially said Wilpon and Madoff acted “in unison” sounds to me like you are implicating Wilpon in some sort of impropriety. And I certainly know the bankruptcy trustee implied. It’s his job to get back as much as possible and Picard is going at it as aggressively as he can. So he overshoots and paints a negative picture of the people he is going after. But just saying or implying the Wilpons/Katz were complicit in the scheme is quite another from actually showing it. And so far, no one has really shown one bit of evidence that the Wilpons/Katz were anything but victims in this thing.

        Also, it’s been long known since the Madoff scandal first broke that the Wilpons recommended others to Madoff. But this included family and close friends like Sandy Koufax. If anything, that should prove that the Wilpons had no clue it was a ponzi scheme as who in their right mind would involve their friends and family in a ponzi scheme. If it ever comes to trial, I think Picard will lose on the point of whether or not the Wilpons knew or should have known it was a ponzi scheme. And the secretary’s statement tends to undermine the trustee’s position. For only someone on the inside — who is closely involved with or has knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the Madoff company — might have been in a position to ascertain that it was a scam.

        I think the chances of a trial are small, though. The Wilpons don’t want their personal and business details splashed throughout the press. So they will try to settle.

        Also, I am not saying this won’t impact the Mets. I am not saying this isn’t newsworthy. I am just asking you to paint the news accurately. Without bias.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 2, 2011 at 12:14 PM

        It appears that nothing I say will convince you that I’m not biased against the Mets here, so I’m not going to bother to try. Believe what you will. I think that you’re simply ignoring facts, however, if you don’t believe that the Wilpons played a role — even if it was an unwitting one — in allowing Madoff to continue his schemes. They sent him investors. They staked much of the Mets financial position on him.

        Investors are the fuel of a ponzi scheme. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t know and, unless I’m wrong, I don’t believe that the issue of their being in on the fraud is even part of the litigation. It’s simply about whether they have funds that were the subject of the fraud that must be returned. In this, the Wilpons are far more prominent than other investors.

        “If anything, that should prove that the Wilpons had no clue it was a ponzi scheme as who in their right mind would involve their friends and family in a ponzi scheme.”

        I can assure you, as someone who defended a person who orchestrated a $50 million ponzi scheme, that you are wrong about that. The schemers bring in friends and family because they know they’ll pay them first. The non-schemers who nonethless have an inkling that something is fishy also bring on others because they’re either dazzled by the returns and don’t care or else because they think they’ll get out and the later saps in the investment will be the ones left holding the bag. This isn’t to say the Wilpons are like that. I’m merely saying that people routinely bring their families into bad investments in ponzi scheme situations even if they’re aware that something is amiss.

        You don’t know what the Wilpons knew, suspected or at the very least should have suspected as the sophisticated investors they are. Neither do I. As such, both you claiming the Wilpons were true innocents or I claiming that they weren’t are fact-free assertions.

        For my part, I admit I don’t know. And I’m not sure what you continue to base your belief that I’m accusing them of something. Will you admit that you don’t know either?

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 1:04 PM

        “if you don’t believe that the Wilpons played a role — even if it was an unwitting one — in allowing Madoff to continue his schemes.”

        LOL, if you define a “role” as any action involving pumping money into Madoff or taking money out, well then every single investor in Madoff had a role in it. Then Tim Teufel, Sandy Koufax, Steven Speilberg, Jon Malkovich, and Elie Weisel ALL had roles in Madoff too. That doesn’t mean any of them did anything improper. Every single investor then had an “unwitting” role in keeping the ponzi scheme going. And I’d bet that some of those I just mentioned also referred friends and/or family to Madoff. So I don’t understand your point at all.

        “They staked much of the Mets financial position on him.”

        If you’re talking about the actual “Mets” money (vs. Sterling Equities), that remains to be seen. The deferred money to players is a pittance in regards to team’s overall finances.

        “I don’t believe that the issue of their being in on the fraud is even part of the litigation.”

        It is. Picard is saying in his suit that the Wilpons knew or should have known what was going on. If they knew what was going on, then that makes them part of the actual scheme.

        “The non-schemers who nonethless have an inkling that something is fishy also bring on others because they’re either dazzled by the returns and don’t care or else because they think they’ll get out and the later saps in the investment will be the ones left holding the bag.”

        Any person who doesn’t care about involving family and friends in a suspected ILLEGAL scheme — one that could eventually bring on legal and financial problems — is a person without morals or character. Everything everyone has ever said about Fred Wilpon personally has been nothing but positive and full of praise for his character and honesty. There is no way he had any inkling Madoff was a scammer.

        Don’t equate the Wilpons/Katz with some of the criminal lowlifes you’ve defended.

        “And I’m not sure what you continue to base your belief that I’m accusing them of something. Will you admit that you don’t know either?”

        Your initial misquote was the key phrase that said you were accusing Wilpon of improper actions. Secondary to that is the whole tenor of your piece. And, no, I don’t know what everyone involved in this case knew or when they knew it. But so far, there has been no factual basis to imply the Wilpons knew more or should have known more than what they claim they did. So until there is, a more neutral piece would be appreciated.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 2, 2011 at 1:12 PM

        Wilpon is not honest. He has lied about the impact the Madoff stuff has had on his finances and the Mets’ finances for more than two years. Only now is he coming clean. He may be the most innocent victim ever, but he’s not honest, and your credulity on that point shows your bias.

        All of my “lowlife” clients had friends, families and supporters singing their praises until and beyond the moment they went to jail. There will be people who do the same for Wilpon no matter what is found out about him. It establishes absolutely nothing about what the actual facts are.

        You don’t want a neutral piece. You want a naive one. Sorry, I don’t do that.

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 1:45 PM

        Craig, that is wrong. Until the trustee’s lawsuit, it was true that Madoff was not impacting the Mets. The Wilpons were honest when they said that.

        It wasn’t until the lawsuit was filed just this past December that the Wilpons felt strapped for cash and felt the need to find investment partners. So up until that time, their statements about Madoff not effecting the team were correct.

        As for Madoff impacting Wilpon in other business areas, the Wilpons have never said anything about this one way or the other. So how could they have lied about something they have never publicly commented on?

        As for Madoff impacting Wilpon personally, it’s long been reported he feels devastated by the whole thing.

        I see no lies here.

        As a Mets fan, I’ve watched the Wilpons closely over the years. I’ve seen them being very dumb on occasion when it comes to baseball decisions. But I’ve never seen any dishonesty with them. And that includes comments regarding the Madoff situation,

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 1:56 PM

        “All of my “lowlife” clients had friends, families and supporters singing their praises until and beyond the moment they went to jail. There will be people who do the same for Wilpon no matter what is found out about him. It establishes absolutely nothing about what the actual facts are.”

        I guarantee you, there is nothing to be “found out” about the Wilpons here. The feds have been examining the whole thing for over two years. If there was any evidence they did anything wrong, criminal charges would probably have been brought against them by now.

        As you pointed out, neither you nor I know the whole story. But it’s sad that someone like you — with legal credentials — takes the “guilty until proven innocent”: approach. I guess if he were a Braves owner, the presumption would be one of innocence.

        “You don’t want a neutral piece. You want a naive one. Sorry, I don’t do that.”

        What you do is misquote a NYT’s article so that it implies Wilpon was complicit with Madoff. Sure, you eventually corrected it, but the harm’s already been done as some may never see the correction. It also shows where your mindset was.

        I want a neutral piece. Give me all the facts. Not some biased spin or opinion on the facts or misquotes/misinformation.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 2, 2011 at 2:05 PM

        “But it’s sad that someone like you — with legal credentials — takes the “guilty until proven innocent”: approach.”

        I again — for I think the third time — ask you to point out where in either this post or any other of the many posts I’ve written on the Wilpons — accused them of wrongdoing or even suggested that I believed they probably did something wrong. I’ve said that they are in trouble, which they and anyone else facing a clawback suit worth hundreds of millions of dollars is. I’ve said that they’ve mismanaged the Mets, which is abundantly clear. I have never once accused them of legal wrongdoing. At all. And your insistence to the contrary is disingenuous.

        “I guess if he were a Braves owner, the presumption would be one of innocence.”

        My presumptions would be no different. If you doubt it, maybe you can read this:

        http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2009/09/25/the-braves-corporate-cousin-sells-steroids-over-the-internet/

        Or this:

        http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/10/05/the-next-time-you-complain-about-player-salaries/

        If you doubt for one second that I wouldn’t be writing the exact kinds of posts about Braves ownership if they were involved in this sort of thing that I am writing about the Wilpons you are deluded. Or you haven’t read my work for very long. Either way, you’re mistaken.

        “What you do is misquote a NYT’s article so that it implies Wilpon was complicit with Madoff. Sure, you eventually corrected it …”

        I corrected it within one minute of being made aware of it by you. What’s more, I made the correction completely transparent via a strikethrough. If that misquote is evidence of my bias and disingenuousness, I have an awful funny way of hiding it.

        And your harping on it is getting tiresome. If you have something else to add to this discussion, wonderful. If not, and if you insist on repeating things I’ve addressed over and over again yet you have yet to acknowledge, I have no choice but to take my leave of this discussion.

      • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 4:45 PM

        Craig, if I’ve not acknowledged something you’ve said, it’s not intentional. I reply to what I feel are the salient points. To reply on everything would make things lengthier than they already are.

        Now I’ll try to address EVERYTHING since you think if I don’t, I’m evading something:

        1) About your bias, I don’t see anything similar to this situation in the two short Liberty Media posts you linked to. In both those pieces, you essentially just reported the facts, not going beyond them to imply any wrongdoing on the part of the owners. In this piece on Wilpon, you stretch things to imply impropriety.

        2) Where did I get the idea that you were accusing the Wilpons of wrongdoing? First let me say I have not read any of your previous pieces on the issue. I’m sure there is much there I would take issue with. I am talking only about this post you made today. Let me quote you:

        “The more damning part of the article, however, involves the way that the Wilpons would steer friends and even Mets employees to Madoff investments.”

        Huh? How is that damning? As I said before a few times, the fact they steered their own friends and family to Madoff is proof they had no clue it was a scam. Doing so puts them in legal and financial jeopardy, despite the promise of huge gains. Also, as I said before, some of this is not news. It’s long been reported they steered friends/associates like Sandy Koufax and Tim Teuful to Madoff. By your immediately following up with the misquote – mistakenly implying the Ponzi scheme was jointly orchestrated with Wilpon – makes that part of your post greatly misleading and a smear job on the Wilpons. And yes, again I know you corrected it, but the harm has already been done for those who might never see the retraction.

        Then you said:

        “If what the many sources of this article say is true, the Wilpons are more than the victims they’ve made themselves out to be.”

        Huh? I don’t question the sources in that story at all. What they said may be true. If everything they said in this story is true, I don’t see how that equates to wrongdoing, unethical behavior or criminal activity. IOW, the statements in this story is not inconsistent with the Wilpons being essentially victims. In this thing, you are either a victim or a criminal. No in between. You essentially called the Wilpons criminals.

        Don’t forget the Wilpons lost about half a billion dollars on paper with Madoff. That’s how much they still had in their Madoff accounts when the scheme fell apart.

        I think you would still be reporting on this story if it were the Braves owners, but the difference is you wouldn’t make the jump from the facts to imply the owners were involved in improprieties.

        3) “If that misquote is evidence of my bias and disingenuousness, I have an awful funny way of hiding it.” The initial misquote I think shows where your mind was on this matter. Moreover, how could you not correct it after it was pointed out to you? Isn’t that the least a respectable writer should do?

        4) “if you insist on repeating things I’ve addressed over and over again yet you have yet to acknowledge” Again, if I didn’t acknowledge something important, why not point it out? It’s not intentional. In an effort to keep things as brief as possible, I just address what I think is important.

  9. steve keane - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Everyday this story get worse. Next week could be the day that the truth comes out as WNBC TV and the NY Times find out if their petition to the court to have sealed lawsuit that Iriving Picard has filed against the Wilpon’s as trustee for the Madoff victims lifted and the contents of the lawsuit released to the public. Someone better make sure Fred, Jeff and Saul Katz are wearing slip on shoes that day

    • browngoat25 - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      I agree. This has grown into a katamari, and will just drag on all season long. Hope they release the contents of the suit – I would like to know how much the Wilpons may be on the hook for and I am sure any potential investor would, too.

      A couple of questions, Craig:
      1) If the lawsuit is sealed, can the Wilpons discuss it with potential investors?

      2) Also, I have not seen this anywhere, but does the trustee have the power to go after the profits of someone like Frank Cashen or Bobby Bonilla, who made money, but not as much as the Wilpons/Katz? Would the trustee go after smaller investors?

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:43 AM

        I’m sure that they could discuss the suit — or at least part of it — with potential investors as long as the investors were subject to a confidentiality agreement of some sort. Even if that mechanism hasn’t already been built in, I’m sure the court and the bankruptcy trustee would agree to let them, because doing so makes it way more likely that the suit gets settled and victims get paid.

        I have no idea about the second question. I’m sure there is some logical end point at which the money can no longer be clawed back. I’ll defer to bankruptcy experts as to where that line is. My guess is that Bonilla and Cashen and anyone else on Mets payroll is safe, but I really don’t know.

      • Adam - Feb 2, 2011 at 1:46 PM

        Having been on the payroll of a company the SEC shut down for fraud I can tell you they don’t go after regular employees who were paid salaries. They’ll go after the higher ups who were responsible, but day to day operations people are safe.

      • wintwins - Feb 2, 2011 at 1:58 PM

        @browngoat 25: +10 for katamari.

  10. trevorb06 - Feb 2, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    ” “I remember vividly Madoff’s name being brought up a lot when” the team “would negotiate contracts, particularly with deferments,” said the former executive, who would not be identified because he did not want to harm his career in baseball. “That money would be turned over to Madoff. ”

    This would not surprise me one bit if Omar is the whistle blower here. It makes perfect sense. He would be the one in the know about such a thing AND he might be feeling a little bit scorned by the Met’s organization.

  11. browngoat25 - Feb 2, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    Thanks, Craig. I know the trustee went after the widow of Jeffry Picower and got something like $7 billion from his estate, but no one has made clear how far the trustee can or will go to “claw” back money. Along with Bonilla, I believe Bret Saberhagen also has deferred money from the Mets; and as far as current Mets (according a qucik review of Cot’s), only Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran have deferred money. No word on where it is invested…

    I wonder how this news would effect the future contracts the Mets sign with deferred money.

  12. Dan in Katonah - Feb 2, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    As a die-hard Mets fan I did not read any bias into your reporting of the story, Craig. Just my 2 cents.

    And anyone who feels that the Madoff debacle has not effected the Mets is delusional. I am extremely fearful that this team will be run on diminishing budgets. Already it seems they have little or no interest in assembling a team that can win now or in the future. The window on Reyes and Wright is closing and there does not seem to be a plan in place to move forward.

    The Mets is an extremely valuable franchise – if the Wilpons cannot or will not run it at a budget that reflects the income from tickets and tv revenues, then they should sell it and use the massive profit to cover their Madoff losses. Wilpon has been known as a Selig favorite (e.g., adhering to draftslot recommendations when it would help the team to ignore them). I am curious if cronyism gets Wilpon a pass when it might be in the team’s and MLB’s best interest to find a more solvent owner. Today’s meeting should be interesting.

    • chrisny3 - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:17 PM

      “And anyone who feels that the Madoff debacle has not effected the Mets is delusional. I am extremely fearful that this team will be run on diminishing budgets.”

      The Mets payroll this year will be around $150 million. It will be the highest in team history. It will be the 3rd or 4th highest in baseball. I think there are about 25 other teams in baseball who would love to be run on “diminishing budgets” such as this one.

      • Dan in Katonah - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:06 PM

        My Chris, how you love the quotes (and the conflict). Yes, current payroll is high due to bad deals (thanks Omar) and injuries not helping. But they are scrounging for an influx of cash by trying to sell 25% of the team. The current word seems to be the Reyes might be dealt at the deadline. With clearly defined needs, they were dormant this off-season except for taking a shot at some reclamation projects (which is not a problem by itself).

        Once some of the deals come off the books, however, are they going to keep that budget where it belongs or is that money going to legal bills and lost deferred money?

      • chrisny3 - Feb 3, 2011 at 12:55 PM

        My Dan, who doesn’t love quotes? They are the quickest way to keep a discussion on course, brief, and to the point without fear of incorrectly paraphrasing someone else’s position.

        The Wilpons are trying to sell 25% of the team to meet short term cash needs solely arising out of a lawsuit. Once that lawsuit is settled, the cash flow issue is over. And they will still owe 75% of the team which is more than twice as much as the Steinbrenners own of the Yankees.

        The payroll rose roughly 15 million this winter which is hardly being “dormant.” Whether they improved enough for your needs or what they do with the money coming off the books after this season are both irrelevant. There is just no indication that the team in the future will run on “diminishing budgets.”

        But keep cowering in the corner with your fears if that’s what you like to do. It might suit your personality best.

  13. davebrownspiral - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    It’s obvious that the Madoff debacle is affecting the Wilpons financially, and can only have a negative bearing on the Mets now and going forward. However, as chrisny3 points out, the Mets are going to have $150 million dollar payroll this year. The Mets are certainly not being cheap. The issue is more the fact that the money has been spent very poorly. Santana is making approximately $22 million this year. He’s out until at least June. $18 million is tied up in Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. (That almost makes you want to cry.) Beltran is making approximately $22 or $23 million this season. K-Rod is making about $11-$12 million this year. That’s almost $75 million tied up in non-productive players (excluding K-Rod who was solid last year despite his off the field problems). Throw in Bay and his 8 HR’s making about $16 million, and you can begin to see how poorly the Mets have allocated their assets.

    Ultimately, the problem is not Madoff or that the Mets ownership is not willing to spend money. It’s the fact that the Mets have been run so poorly (from the majors to the minors) the past few years and have spent money so unwisely, that they just aren’t a very good team right now, and may not be for a couple of years until they shed these albatross contracts (Perez, Castillo, Beltran end after this year) develop some quality minor league talent and allocate their money towards better talent.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:53 PM

      Can’t spend money that you don’t have.

  14. Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:53 PM

    Were greedy and got caught. Plain and simple. Explains this AAA team that they field. Probably had to borrow just to pay Wright.

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