As cold or unfeeling as it may sound, another link to all that was once wrong with the New York Mets is now gone.
Infamous Ponzi schemer, Bernie Madoff, died at the age of 82 on Wednesday morning in federal prison, where he was serving a 150-year sentence for securities fraud and other charges in which he stole billions of dollars from clients over the decades.
Amongst Madoff’s victims were the previous owners of the Mets, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, who were hit hard when Madoff was arrested in 2008.
In the eventual settlement following the discovery of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, it was discovered that the Mets owners had approximately $500 million invested in Madoff in nearly 500 accounts.
Madoff promised and delivered consistent, high, and ultimately false returns of as much as 12%-18% of their investments, which is why the Wilpons and Katz had such an extensive relationship with him.
Of course, they didn’t know that; relying on Madoff for quick, extra cash as needed to help bolster the Mets’ roster in the late 90s and early 2000s, for example.
But the Wilpons used money made from Madoff as collateral on other loans, so when Madoff went bust, Mets ownership had to borrow $430 million against the team and an additional $450 million against their regional television network, SNY.
It created massive debts that forced the Wilpons to pay over $100 million per year along, created alongside the annual $43 million payment on Citi Field.
That was why Mets fans’ wishes of their favorite team going out and signing that big-name free agent didn’t happen often enough. That was why a club that plays in the largest sports market on the planet was being run like it played its games in Kalamazoo instead of New York City.
So, while it may sound brutal or heartless, it was only fitting that Madoff — the man who stole so much from so many — departs this planet after the new era of the Mets has dawned.
The Wilpons sold their majority stake of the team to Steve Cohen in November where the hedgefund-owning billionaire is the richest club owner in Major League Baseball — and has the Mets acting accordingly, most notably signing Francisco Lindor to one of the richest contracts in MLB history thanks to a 10-year, $341 million extension that was hammered out just before Opening Day.
Just another step farther away from one of the darkest times in franchise history.