To date the Wilpons have downplayed their financial ties to Bernie Madoff, characterizing their investments as somewhat limited. It’s now coming out that the relationship was more significant, with the team also investing deferred player payments with Madoff.
When the Mets negotiated their larger contracts with star players — complex deals with signing bonuses and performance incentives — they sometimes adopted the strategy of placing deferred money owed the players with Mr. Madoff’s investment firm. They would have to pay the player, but the owners of the club would be able to make money for themselves in the meantime. There never seemed to be much doubt about that, according to several people with knowledge of the arrangements….
[A] lawsuit against Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz brought by the trustee for victims of Mr. Madoff has suggested the relationship — financially and personally — was deeper than anyone might have suspected. The trustee, Irving H. Picard, has alleged that the two men’s dealings with Mr. Madoff were extensive and longstanding, and that they went on even after suspicions about Mr. Madoff’s operation were raised, according to two lawyers involved in the case.
As a result, according to the lawyers, Mr. Picard has asserted that Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz either knew or should have known that Mr. Madoff’s operation was a potential fraud. Mr. Wilpon, Mr. Katz and their lawyers have refused to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed under seal in December in federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan.
This is serious stuff, to be sure: if a tie like this can be established between the Wilpons and Madoff, then that draws the Wilpons into the web of financial culpability that’s already ensnared Madoff and his family. It surely will cast a shadow on the Mets’ operations this season and could force the family out from team ownership in the future. The pair are meeting with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig today to address the issue.
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