Well, the Met ownership has decided that the team’s financial struggles, which didn’t exist, then weren’t anyone’s business, then became part of a massive PR campaign through interviews in The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated, then were nobody’s business again, are once again worth publicly discussing. Fred Wilpon gave interviews to Newsday and the Wall Street Journal, a day after a story appeared in the New York Daily News about the ongoing minority share sale efforts.
But for all the sound and fury, what did we learn this week?
The supposed bombshell in the New York Daily News piece is as follows:
“The Mets are close to finalizing the sale of at least five $20 million shares in the team, a move that would help pay off $350 million in club debt, baseball officials familiar with the transactions told the Daily News.
Major League Baseball has vetted and approved the investors, and the team is expected to close those sales and raise more than $100 million within the month, the officials said.”
Let’s set aside that the Daily News is under-reporting the team debt, which is actually $430 million. For those keeping score as home, roughly eight months after the Mets had a minority investor, David Einhorn, approved by Major League Baseball to invest $200 million, the Mets have five investors ready to provide them with half that money. That $100 million, if it comes to pass, will go toward paying the $40 million bridge loan from last November, $25 million to Major League Baseball for a loan way past due, leaving $35 million to help them cover interest against the $430 million due against the team (totaled $30 million last year), $20 million in interest against their SNY loan due in 2015 (totaled $20 million last year), and a pair of roughly $25 million payments due on Citi Field in June and December.
And then there’s that pesky trial, starting in March, which has Irving Picard, trustee for the Bernie Madoff victims, seeking $386 million from Wilpon and his partners.
Of course, what we learned from Einhorn, and the many other times the Mets have claimed to have investors in place, is that “close” doesn’t always lead to actual cash in hand. But even in the scenario where the Wilpon group gets those five investors, it doesn’t get them very far.
As far as the two interviews of Wilpon go, the financial and legal questions were apparently off limits. The team’s rationale for hiring CRG Partners, a turnaround firm, wasn’t addressed. The result is an interview that establishes two points:
1. More than a month after Jose Reyes left, Wilpon finally provided a statement on losing the star shortstop that wasn’t utterly tone-deaf. That doesn’t do much for him at this late date.
2. Fred Wilpon still wants to own the Mets.
Well, on point 2: we knew that. The reason to believe the Mets will soon be under new ownership, whether later this year or once those massive loans start coming due in 2014, isn’t that Fred Wilpon is tired of owning the Mets. It is because he doesn’t have nearly enough money to pay his mounting obligations. And all we learned this week is that he might be close to acquiring some money that doesn’t help him cover those known obligations for even the coming year.
For a more complete accounting of the financial and legal challenges ahead, you really ought to read my book on the subject.