You might have been wondering how that friends and family sale of minority shares in the New York Mets has been going. But Jeff Wilpon has news for you.
Don’t. It’s none of your business.
I have to assume there was a miscommunication here. Jeff Wilpon couldn’t have been referring to the same minority sale that…
1. …Wilpon and his father announced back in January to great fanfare, with press release, conference call, etc., letting us know that after two-plus years of pretending that everything was fine (and attacking those who reported otherwise), they needed a cash infusion. They claimed it was the result of “uncertainty” created by the lawsuit brought against them by trustee for the Bernie Madoff victims Irving Picard.
2. …Fred Wilpon discussed in May with both The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated, making clear that the $200 million he sought was not, in fact, for the lawsuit at all, but rather to pay more pressing short-term bills. (After all, the lawsuit doesn’t need to be paid until appeals are exhausted, or a settlement is made.) It was our business to know how important that cash infusion was for ownership, when ownership wanted to rally public opinion to its side.
3. …the Mets publicly touted shortly thereafter with David Einhorn, sending out a press release lauding Einhorn and a deal with him, despite the fact that a deal hadn’t been signed yet. It was our business merely to know that a deal was close.
4. …the Mets, after shopping the Einhorn deal behind his back, had re-entered exclusive negotiations with Einhorn again at the end of July. We received a press release about that, too.
5. …on September 1, the deal with Einhorn had fallen through, but the Mets had a plan in place to sell smaller ownership blocks, as improbable as such a plan seemed, especially in light of reports that they’d already tried and failed with this approach. It was our business to know that the ownership group who told us all was well for several years, then that they needed money for months, would be fine because of this implausible plan.
That’s the same thing that is now none of our business? Can’t be.
And one other thing to consider. Jeff Wilpon claimed the following: “Some of the people don’t want to be public,” Wilpon said. “Some of the people might never be public.”
So what is the motivation of these would-be owners? The team is losing a ton of money, and prospects for that to change aren’t very good in the near future. The team itself faces legal exposure from Picard’s lawsuit. If it isn’t about supporting current ownership and/or desire to be publicly associated with Major League Baseball, what exactly is driving these mysterious new minority owners?
Just remember: it is in the best interests of this ownership group to publicize any minority buy-in, since there are ample questions about their financial viability. That is why they were so eager to talk up David Einhorn- to illustrate confidence in their position from an outside interest. Of course, it quickly became clear that Einhorn’s deal was about a distinct lack of confidence in their position- he obviously believed he could take over once the Wilpons failed.
Minority owners with no path to majority ownership, however, actually would be a sign that at least some people thought investing with this ownership group made sense. So on the two-month anniversary of the public split with Einhorn, it would behoove ownership from a PR perspective to announce some success there.
Their failure to do so speaks volumes.
And acting affronted over being asked about that process, after playing out the pursuit of minority owners so publicly all year- a pursuit the Wilpon ownership group had claimed for two years would never be necessary, and attacked the credibility of those who said otherwise- is insulting to the intelligence of Mets fans. It’s about as insulting as pretending the payroll which was supposed to remain static in the $130-140 million range last winter, but now may dip below $100 million, is the result of some kind of philosophical change, when Fred Wilpon himself told us back in May it is because he’s running out of money.