Yesterday, Donald Trump became the newest egomaniac billionaire to show interest in purchasing the Mets in the midst of their recent legal troubles. However, like previous interested outspoken parties, Trump told reporters that he would only be interested in a controlling stake of the team. But the Wilpons made it unequivocally clear at spring training today that this isn't an option: “We’re not selling controlling interest of the team. It’s not on the table," COO Jeff Wilpon said.
The Wilpons company Sterling Equities is being sued by a group of Madoff victims, led by trustee Irving Picard, for $300 million, claiming that Madoff's "fictitious profits" fueled every part of the team's business. But during a jailhouse interview yesterday, Madoff told the NY Times that the Mets owners "knew nothing" of his Ponzi scheme. Madoff also noted that Picard is seeking more money than was lost by investors. Jeff Wilpon reiterated that he felt the press had been unfair to his family and his father in particular with regards to Madoff: “They’ve had years and years that they have been good citizens, good businessmen and to attack them the way they have been attacked is real unfair, unfounded. We’re going to fight [the lawsuit] and we’re going to be victorious at the end.”
But what if the Trump, Martin Luther King III, and all the other potential investors don't work out? A group of Big Apple business people from investment bank and brokerage firm Tritaurian Capital have a plan to buy the team wholly from the Wilpons by selling $999 shares to Mets fans. "Looking at the [Green Bay] Packers and what they have done in the past, I think there's no reason why the fans of the Mets can't accomplish something similar," said James Preissler, chairman and CEO of the start-up venture, BuytheMets.com. But that group also wants to own a controlling interest, and the Wilpon said there are other, quieter parties who align with their strategy: "There’s a lot of interest and good interest from real people that you haven’t read about. Most of what you’ve read about is not real.”
Nevertheless, the Mets are down in Florida for spring training, and this year's team is coming together behind some rapidly-aging stars whose futures are uncertain and a patchwork starting rotation. Wilpon is still optimistic about the team this year, and doesn't think the legal woes will affect the club anymore than it already has: “Our payroll is going to be $145-$150 million, that is tops in baseball or right up there. And we’re going to be committed to make sure all the resources are here to continue to run this thing the way it’s been run." We know it's not going to happen, but if they really wanted to prove how OK everything is, maybe they should overcompensate wildly and go after a certain first basemen from St. Louis.