Things cannot get much worse for the Wilpons. On Friday, a judge unsealed the complaint against the Mets owners filed on behalf of victims of Bernard L. Madoff's giant Ponzi scheme. Turns out the Mets really need a couple bucks, but they'll pay you right back, swear to God.
OK, so we knew the Mets lost hundreds of millions of dollars—rather, hundreds of millions the Wilpons thought had simply vanished—when Madoff's scheme imploded. But the family still owned the Mets, right? And two-thirds of SNY, a cable network available in most New York-area homes?
Well, not really. After the Madoff failure, eight (EIGHT!) banks stepped in to engineer a financial rescue of the Mets, restructuring $500 million in existing Wilpon debt. As part of that plan, Wilpon took on $100 million more in personal debt. Whatever, even that's understandable—in times of crisis, loans get amended.
But evidently the Wilpons needed more, so they borrowed $450 million against SNY, and demanded that half of that loan come in cash. In a $375 million financing of the Mets, Wilpon took home $75 million in cash. According to the New York Times, the Mets have also hit their limit on borrowing from Major League Baseball.
And there's this:
A lawyer for Picard, David Sheehan, has said that when Wilpon needed cash but wanted to avoid formally going to the banks for more loans, he simply had Madoff lend him millions, all under the guise of ostensible investments in Wilpon's real estate holdings and venture capital deals.
Always good to have a massive, sputtering fraud as a piggy bank. Well done!
All of this debt falls on top of nearly $700 million more tied up in Citi Field. Forbes recently gave the Mets a book value of -$225 million. Yeah, that's a negative sign in front.
Wrote the Times:
In fact, in 2002, when Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz assumed full ownership of the Mets, they offered Mr. Madoff a piece of the club, according to the lawsuit. He declined.
Any investor could see that the Mets were a debt-ridden fraud. Even Bernie Madoff.