Wilpon has no plans to sell Mets
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
Even as sharks continue to surround the life boat, New York Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon guarantees he and his family will reach shore.
The 75-year-old Mets patriarch made his initial appearance of spring training Monday and said he has no plans to sell the team despite its recent financial troubles and the fact his family is embroiled in a clawback lawsuit by the trustee for victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
"I'm OK — I've got fives," Wilpon said joking, as he reached into his pocket and grabbed a roll of bills.
"[Fans] shouldn't be concerned about us owning the franchise, because we intend to own the franchise for a very long time. Whether they're happy about that right now, I don't know. Don't forget, we cut a lot of payroll that wasn't producing."
Wilpon indicated the Mets have seven commitments in place in his effort to sell 10 shares of the club and raise $200 million in capital.
The Mets would use much of that money to repay loans — including one to Major League Baseball for $25 million — but Wilpon said he intends to reinvest leftover money in the team.
Last year, the Mets lost $70 million. Wilpon indicated the decision to lower this year's payroll from $140 million to about $90 million was as much a baseball decision as a financial one.
"I was tired of throwing money at something and not getting success," he said. "We cut a lot of payroll that wasn't producing. If you look at the payroll now, it's fluid. Many of the people that were not producing are not here."
Wilpon also briefly addressed the clawback lawsuit that is scheduled for trial next month. The trustee originally sought $1 billion from Wilpon and his brother-in-law Saul Katz, but the most they will be on the hook for is $386 million.
There is also a chance the lawsuit could be dismissed before the trial.
"When it started, there was a really big number out there," Wilpon said. "Now it's down — I'm not minimizing it — but it's down to a different number. So I think the next couple of weeks will tell. Whether there's a trial or no trial, we'll see."