Wilpons, Steinbrenners & questions about ownership

According to Mike Lupica of the Daily News, the Steinbrenner family owns just 32.9% of the Yankees, but are still the majority owners.

“The Wilpons could sell a third of their team and still have twice as much of the Mets as the Steinbrenners do of the Yankees,” he explains.

I wrote about this yesterday, pointing out that the Mets are one of the few sports organizations to still have one family own so much of the team (probably 99%). So, the idea of bringing on limited partners is not that earth-shattering.

Honestly, I’m still not sure what to make of all of this, because, frankly, I don’t think there is any way to know what any of this means or where it will go. Talk radio and gossip news keep speculating about Donald Trump or Jerry Seinfeld buying in. Naturally, there is a fan movement in favor of Mark Cuban. I recall hearing people say Michael Bloomberg would be an obvious choice, assuming he wasn’t holding public office. The reality is, it’ll probably be some faceless investment group.

In either case, Steve Popper of the Bergen Record said on Twitter that he talked with a baseball official, ‘who said with assurance,’ the Willpons aren’t going anywhere, “there will be no complete sale of Mets.”

I don’t doubt that. Then again, the team insisted last year that they’d never sell a part of the team, and now they’re exploring such an option. I don’t think this makes any one disingenuous. To me, it’s a byproduct of a different reality.

Last year, the Wilpons probably didn’t think they’d need to raise capital by selling a part of the team, and so they said so. Now they’re thinking about it. So, today, when they and others say, ‘The Wilpons aren’t going anywhere,’ how do I know circumstances won’t change that some day as well?

These are things I keep asking myself, as I listen to others talk about the situation:

  • As I understand it, because interested investors are about to become familiar with the team’s business, I bet information about their finances get leaked – and it will be interesting to see how fans, baseball and media react.
  • In talks with investors, what happens if one person or a large group decide to blow the Wilpons out of the water with an offer they can’t refuse, especially in this economy and knowing the family is being sued? Then what?
  • Even if the potential new partner doesn’t have a controlling interest, what happens if (for unforeseen legal reasons) the Wilpons are forced to sell? Does the new, limited partner get first dibs at taking over? If so, if that is even ever possible, as a fan, I’m gonna be particularly interested in who the new investor is
  • Lastly, even if just a limited partner, if it’s a person like a Trump or Seinfeld, though they might not have a controlling interest, those type of personalities are hardly silent. They’re celebrity will carry lots of influence with fans and media through publicity.

In the end, this is all economic drama. Sure it’s compelling, and I’m interested because this could all have a long-term impact on my experience rooting for the team. It could make it worse. It could make it better. It could make zero difference. Right now, though, the questions and speculation do nothing to help Johan Santana get back from surgery, nor does it get out lefties or give Jose Reyes a .400 OBP, all of which are things I’m far more concerned about these days.