Mets Owners Reach $162M Settlement With Trustee for Madoff Victims

A trial had been set to begin Monday to determine how much the Mets owed.

Monday, Mar 19, 2012  |  Updated 3:10 PM EDT
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Mets Settle for $162M With Madoff Trustee

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The Mets owners and a trustee for Bernard Madoff's fraud victims settled Monday for $162 million in a case aimed at repairing the damage from a massive investment scheme.

The Mets will not pay anything for three years.

Jury selection had been set to begin Monday in a civil trial to determine how much the Mets owners would owe other investors who trusted their money to Madoff.

Trustee Irving Picard had argued that the Mets owners knew that Madoff's corrupt investment scheme was a fraud but continued their investments anyway because they were making a lot of money. Lawyers for the owners insist their clients had no idea the investments were a sham.

The case has damaged the Mets' financial picture, forcing the team to slash payroll and try to raise tens of millions of dollars by selling small chunks of the team.

Both Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, principal Mets owners, expressed relief outside the courthouse and Katz said the team's finances were secure.

"Now I guess I can smile. ... Maybe I can take a day off," Wilpon said.

Judge Jed Rakoff said Picard had reviewed the evidence and will no longer pursue a claim of "willful blindness" against the defendants.

"I am very, very pleased for ourselves and our families. This was really a team effort," Wilpon said as he left the courthouse.

"We are not willfully blind... We acted in good faith," he said. He said he was going to Florida Tuesday to resume work at "trying to bring the New York Mets back to prominence." Asked if the Mets will have to raise any more money through other investors and he said: "We'll address that."

Katz said he was "very pleased to have this behind us." He said outside the courthouse that the Mets were on secure financial footing. "Always was," he said.

David J. Sheehan, the lawyer for trustee Irving Picard, said outside court that the settlement enables the Mets owners to try to recover the $162 million through the efforts Picard makes to recover $178 million in claims the Mets owners have made against the Madoff estate. "In a sense, we're now partners."

Rakoff ruled several weeks ago that the Mets owners must pay up to $83 million in fictitious profits they received over the years from Madoff.

The trial was to determine whether they owed another $303 million.

Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence after admitting his fraud.

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