What's Your Language?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NYT: Jeff Wilpon: “We’re not selling controlling interest in the team, It’s not on the table.”

According to The NY Times, Jeff Wilpon, the son of the longtime Mets owner Fred Wilpon, said his family had received many offers to buy a part of the team, but he emphasized that his family would not relinquish a majority share of it.

“We’re not selling controlling interest in the team,” he said. “It’s not on the table.”

In January the Mets said that because of the uncertainty brought by the lawsuit, they would seek to sell up to 25 percent of the team in order to raise money tosettle it. Since then, negotiations between the sides have broken off.

On Tuesday Donald Trump said in an interview with The New York Times that he had contacted Fred Wilpon two weeks ago about buying a share of the team, but wanted to buy a controlling share. Jeff Wilpon seemed to downplay the prospect of a Trump bid for the team.

“There’s been a lot of interest,” he said, “and good interest from real people that you haven’t read about in the paper. Most of what you read about in the paper is not real.”

He then reiterated that his family would not relinquish their eight-year majority ownership of the team.

“That’s it,” he said. “We’re not giving up control.”

Wilpon also said that the lawsuit would not affect the day-to-day operations of the Mets and pointed to the team’s high payroll, which is projected to be the fifth- or sixth-highest in baseball in 2011. He said that players should not be concerned with the matter.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “This is an ownership issue, a Sterling Equities issue, and it has nothing to do with what goes on here. As you know, our payroll is going to be $145, $150 million. That’s tops in baseball, or right up there, and we’re going to be committed to make sure all the resources are here and continue to run this team the way it’s been run.”

Although the payroll is high, almost all of it was committed before the lawsuit and the financial uncertainties of the team. The Mets have been one of the most frugal teams during the offseason. Wilpon said there was room for the payroll to increase, or decrease, depending on the decisions of general manager Sandy Alderson.

“There’s flexibility to go up and flexibility to go down,” he said. That’s more a question for Sandy, though.”
Wilpon said that the current situation has not affected him personally, but defended his father and uncle against what he said were unfounded attacks.

“I’m doing fine,” he said. “This is obviously all a little bit of a distraction and I feel really bad for our family and for my dad and my uncle because this is unfounded criticism on them. They’ve had years and years that they’ve been good citizens, been good businessmen, and to attack them the way they’ve been attacked is really very unfair, unfounded and that’s all I really want to say on that.”

Wilpon would not address the recent appointment of former New York governor Mario Cuomo as mediator by the judge in the case, but he indicated the Mets were prepared to see it through in a trial.

“We’re going to fight it, and we’re going to be victorious in the end,” he said.

In an interview with The New York Times from his prison in North Carolina on Tuesday, Madoff said that Fred Wilpon and Katz were not aware of his illegal scheme. When asked if he felt that Madoff’s comments vindicated his father and uncle, Wilpon deferred.

“I’m not going to discuss that,” he said.

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