Charging that the Mets’ owners ignored warnings that Bernie Madoff may have been a fraud and profited from their investments with him, the suit seeks the return of some $300 million in “fictitious profits.” Irving Picard, the trustee for the Madoff victims, can also seek millions beyond that amount, and the Times reports that the figure he seeks “could reach beyond $1 billion, according to a lawyer involved in the case.” To quote the complaint: “There are thousands of victims of Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme. But Saul Katz is not one of them. Neither is Fred Wilpon.”
In response, Wilpon and Katz released a statement saying that the suit “is an outrageous ‘strong arm’ effort to try to force a settlement by threatening to ruin our reputations and businesses which we have built for over 50 years” and maintaining that they’ve “done nothing wrong.” They also addressed their previous statement that the Madoff scheme wouldn’t affect the Mets operations, made before they announced they were looking to sell a piece of the franchise. From their response:
All of the public statements we have issued to date have been accurate and true. We said when the fraud was first disclosed that the losses we suffered in the Madoff scheme would have no impact on the operations of the New York Mets and that was true. At the time, we could not have anticipated that a trustee would file a lawsuit seeking to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to the substantial amounts that Madoff had stolen from us.
The lawyers for the Sterling partners shot back as well with a three-page response saying, in part: “The bottom line is that the Sterling partners were innocent victims of the Madoff fraud, and the Trustee’s massive discovery effort did not uncover one shred of evidence to the contrary.” They also contend that the Sterling partners had over $500 million in Madoff accounts and lost all of it. For some explanation on the suit — and on those figures — Adam Rubin spoke to two legal experts over at ESPN New York. And if you’re so inclined, you can read all 365 pages of the suit here. Pitchers and catchers, by the way, report in twelve days. The Mets are still a baseball team too, you know.