NY Daily News, the Mets have narrowed their search for an investor to eight groups, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
The eight groups have been approved by Major League Baseball and their bids for 25% or more of the team are now in the hands of the Mets' owners.
The groups filed letters of intent with financial analyst Steve Greenberg of Allen & Co., which is handling the sale for the team's owners, spelling out what their interest is and how much they are willing to pay for their stake.
"Now they'll decide who gets to Round Two," said the source. "They are very happy with the numbers they're seeing. There's a range - the low end is marginally acceptable and the high end is very acceptable."
A leading sports-investment banker told the Daily News last week that there are no shortage of interest investors for the club, which is valued by some as high as $1 billion.
"I personally know seven billionaires who love the Mets and would love to own the Mets," said Andrew W. Kline, founder and managing director of Park Lane, a sports-investment bank based in Los Angeles that has advised on a number of professional sports acquisitions, including the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Miami Heat. Kline said the Mets' recent operating losses - reported to be in the neighborhood of $50 million a year - and the Madoff lawsuit might not have a profound impact on the value of the team or the selling price for a stake in it.
"If we were talking about someone buying, say, a chemical manufacturing firm that had a similar set of factors - a possible Madoff liability and operating losses - it might impact the valuation and the potential buyer would have more leverage," said Kline, who has been advising a client interested in the Mets bidding. "But it's different with sports franchises.... In a city like New York, with so many high net-worth individuals, the price would probably not be affected."
The Mets' owners are expecting to raise between $150 million and $200 million for a stake in the team. The cash infusion from an investor is expected to be used to operate the team, as the Daily News has reported, not to pay off any Madoff liability that might arise out of the litigation or a settlement.
The team would conceivably pay off a $25 million loan it recently got from MLB and some of its bank debt on the club itself. That would leave about $100 million for the team.
"You are not buying a doorknob manufacturer or a distributorship," Kline said of the potential investors. "You are buying the most rare real estate on the planet."
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