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Potential buyers emerge for Mets — but are they serious?

New York MetsDonald Trump has reached out to Fred Wilpon about buying into the New York Mets — but he would so only if he could buy majority control. He’s the latest suitor for the team, which has attracted a lot of interest from the Manhattan monied set.

According to Trump, he called Wilpon after the team’s financial woes surfaced to discuss an investment in the team. There’s been no meeting and no scheduling of one in the future, so it’s hard to say how interested Wilpon is in involving The Donald in the daily operations of the Mets. Trump says he’s interested only if he can gain a majority share of the team; Wilpon says he and his partners are interested in selling only a quarter of the team.

Trump is the latest to express interest; last week Mark Cuban expressed some limited interest as well, as has Mike Repole, a native of Queen who sold Glaceau to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion. Still, it’s hard to say how interested Trump really is or whether this article in The New York Times isn’t some promotion for Trump. It would be difficult for Trump to actually buy the Mets, which were valued at $858 million by Forbes: he would need to be approved by Major League Baseball owners and divest himself of gambling holdings. Plus, it sounds like the Wilpons really don’t want to relinquish control:

Wilpon and his son, Jeff, the team’s chief operating officer, have said that SNY, their cable sports network, is not for sale, a major hurdle to selling a stake in the team, sports bankers say.

As to why he would not be interested in just a quarter of the team, Trump, referring to himself in the third person, said: “If you look at Trump’s record, he is only interested in things he can control,” he said.

To make the deal more palatable, the Wilpon and Katz families could be offered the chance to retain a role in the team, with Jeff Wilpon, Fred’s son, staying on in some capacity. He is currently the chief operating officer.

The Wilpons and the Mets were all investors in funds managed by Bernie Madoff, but the funds weren’t legit: they were part of a huge Ponzi scheme that ended up causing thousands of clients to lose their investments, but apparently the Wilpons actually profited from their investments. So-called “clawbacks” are filed by a bankruptcy trustee against those who actually received more proceeds from the Ponzi scheme than they invested, on the theory that they were sharing in the proceeds of the fraud. A bankruptcy trustee has indicated he may seek up to a billion dollars from Sterling Equities.

RELATED STORIES: Citi Field debt downgraded by Moody’s because of Mets-Madoff connection; Cuban: I’ll listen if the Wilpons want to sell me a chunk of the MetsMadoff, Mets finances more intertwined than assumed: report; Bottom-shelf-booze magnate making play for Mets?; Wilpons explore selling minority chunk of Mets

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