Sometimes there is a wonderment about the decisions sports leagues make. For some reason Major League Baseball has appointed Mets owner Fred Wilpon to become the chairman of the industry’s finance committee. The very same Fred Wilpon who had some sort of involvement in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Fred Wilpon never did go to trial as part of the case that Irving Picard was trying to build to get money for Madoff victims. Picard agreed to a deal with Wilpon and his brother-in-law and minority Mets owner Saul Katz to pay $162 million in restitution to the Madoff victims. It appears that Wilpon and Katz may have to make payments of $38 million in 2016 and another $38 million in 2017 as part of the agreement. Allegedly Wilpon lost $178 million with Madoff in a bunch of ventures but made $162 million in other investments.
In 2010, Wilpon needed money from Major League Baseball to continue owning the club. Major League Baseball loaned him money. Wilpon and Katz sold 12 chunks of the team to various investors for $20 million each. One of those stake holders was Steven Cohen whose hedge fund was forced to pay a $1.2 billion fine to the Security and Exchange Commission for insider trading. Wilpon used his team and cable TV network as collateral for other loans.
Major League Baseball has painted Wilpon as a successful businessman prior to the Madoff Ponzi scheme and as someone who has emerged from the Ponzi scheme as a successful businessman. Wilpon will be in charge of executive pay and central office budgeting. It seems Major League Baseball wants to overlook the Madoff years of Wilpon’s life and forget it ever happened. Wilpon’s stadium is named after Citbank which agreed to a 20-year, $400 million deal with Wilpon for the Mets stadium naming rights between 2009 and 2028. Before the stadium opened, Citibank got a government bailout in 2008 to keep going. Fred Wilpon somehow has survived within baseball. Now Wilpon who seemingly has been swindled by Madoff and has some other dodgy business relationships is watching over baseball’s money.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and publisher, Evan Weiner.