- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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New York Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and team president Saul Katz met with baseball commissioner Bud Selig on Tuesday to address the team's finances, a baseball source told ESPNNewYork.com.
The Wilpons on Friday announced their intention to sell 20 to 25 percent of the team to satisfy any judgment or settlement in a sealed lawsuit filed by the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of convicted felon Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
The Wilpons and Sterling Equities, their company that controls the Mets, were sued Dec. 7 by Irving H. Picard, the trustee charged with distributing money to victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme, the organization acknowledged Friday. The sides have been in settlement negotiations to recover ill-gotten gains. Some estimates say that Madoff swindled more than $20 billion from investors. Reports indicate that one Mets-related investment fund turned a $47.8 million profit as a result of the scheme.
The New York Times, citing two lawyers involved in the Madoff cases, reported Friday that Picard is seeking to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars from approximately 100 financial entities under the control of Fred Wilpon and Katz. Picard has the leeway to not only go after ill-gotten gains but also can pursue greater amounts depending on what his investigation reveals about the conduct of Madoff clients.
In the lawsuit, Picard wants to recover $300 million of what he describes as "fictitious profits" accrued by the Wilpon and Katz business interests, as well as additional money, according to the Times report citing the two lawyers.
One source told the newspaper that Picard could seek up to $1 billion.
Picard has already recovered about $10 billion from other Madoff clients who the trustee alleged accumulated the funds improperly, according to the Times report.
Forbes has valued the Mets franchise at $858 million. Fred Wilpon, however, did not give any indication of what Picard is seeking and emphasized that the Mets don't have to do anything.
"At the end of the day, we may or may not do anything, but we are exploring options. ... A lawsuit brings uncertainty," Fred Wilpon said Friday. "We're in confidential settlement talks with the trustee, and we hope those talks come to fruition, but that's uncertainty."
14hTony Lee, Special to ESPN.com
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