Selig, Mets owners discuss finances
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Mets owner Fred Wilpon have known each other for decades and have been close friends for years, but chances are Tuesday's meeting was not their most pleasant conversation.
According to sources, Selig sat down with Wilpon, team COO Jeff Wilpon and team president Saul Katz in Manhattan in a meeting that was set up before Friday's announcement of the Wilpons' desire to sell part of the team to raise as much as $250 million. The team's murky future was clearly at the top of the list of things to talk about.
After long denying their ability to run the Mets would be affected by the money they lost in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, the Wilpons were forced to admit they need an influx of cash because of possible lawsuits related to the scandal.
Given Selig and Fred Wilpon's history, it is unlikely the commissioner was blindsided by last week's news of the franchise's financial distress.
Wilpon frequently has sought Selig's advice over the years, most recently when he was looking to replace Omar Minaya as general manager and hired Sandy Alderson away from MLB with Selig's blessing.
Alderson, a day after saying the Mets' 2011 payroll of $140 million to $150 million was "significantly higher" than he wanted it to be, insisted last night he was not about to slash the budget.
"I think there was a little overreaction to that statement," Alderson said. "I don't know that we've been this high before, so given that fact, it probably wouldn't be surprising if we settled on a different number in the future. But we're always gonna have a very high payroll. Whether it's $150 million next year or $130 [million] is a function of a lot of different things."
That includes the outcome of the lawsuit filed in December by Irving Picard, the bankruptcy trustee who is trying to recover funds lost in the Madoff scheme, as well as the potential sale of up to 25 percent of the Mets, who have begun talking to potential investors.
"The real question is to what extent this affects the Wilpons," Alderson said at a fundraiser for Fans For The Cure Foundation at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus. "I'm not sure they even know."
Some experts believe the team's financial crunch is much worse than the Wilpons have let on and that they will need to unload a larger portion of the organization than they have advertised.
"I honestly don't believe this will affect us in a substantial way," Alderson said. "When it does, I think it will be apparent ... Regardless of what we do, there will be a perception that has to be taken into account. All I can do is go forward based on my judgment."
According to court documents, Picard could be seeking to claw back as much as $48 million that Wilpon's Sterling Equities made by investing with Madoff.