Mets' winning mojo helps team flex post-Madoff financial muscle

Fri Oct 16, 2015 4:57pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman

(Reuters) - Fans of the New York Mets had bemoaned the negative impact of the Bernie Madoff financial scandal on the Major League Baseball team's payroll until Thursday night's series-clinching victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With believers now dreaming of the team's first World Series appearance since 2000, the Mets have enjoyed a similar boost off the field with higher attendance and TV ratings. That leads analysts and bankers to believe the club could be at the start of a virtuous cycle, where winning begets higher revenue and even more winning for years to come.

Fresh off advancing to the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs - another rising team with a compelling hard-luck history - the Mets have combined low-cost, young talent with the amenities of a relatively new home park, Citi Field, which opened in 2009.

The best-of-seven Mets-Cubs series begins on Saturday.

"The stadium, combined with aggressive marketing, combined with youth/hope are a great triple play," said Rick Horrow, sports lecturer at Harvard Law School.

That optimism seemed far away when owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz were caught up in Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which was uncovered in late 2008 and cost investors $17 billion in principal. While Wilpon denied it, analysts and bankers said the scandal certainly led to the team's lower payrolls.

The Mets in 2009 had the second-highest payroll in baseball at $142.2 million, but that fell to 21st last year at $84 million, according to Baseball Prospectus. This year it has risen to $101.3 million, which still ranks as 21st.

In 2010, the trustee in charge of recovering money for Madoff victims filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Wilpon, Katz and more than 100 other defendants, claiming they turned a blind eye to the fraud; a charge they denied. The figure was later limited to $386 million by a federal judge.   Continued...

October 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Mets celebrate the 3-2 victory against Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of NLDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports