Forbes says Mets' value is down $100M

Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the NY Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the NY Mets, left, and Fred Wilpon, owner of the NY Mets, appear at a news conference held at Citi Field. (Oct. 4, 2010) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

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The value of the financially troubled Mets fell 13 percent in the past year, according to an annual ranking of baseball teams by Forbes magazine released Wednesday.

The Mets declined in value from $858 million to $747 million, the magazine said on its website. The report cited declining revenue as the team has struggled on the field, plus annual payments due on Citi Field and the $1-billion Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme lawsuit.

The Mets' decline was the steepest of Major League Baseball's 30 teams, according to Forbes. Two other teams also decreased in value -- the San Diego Padres (from $408 million to $406 million) and Cleveland Indians (from $391 million to $353 million).

Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz said in January that the team was seeking a minority investor to purchase a stake of as much as 25 percent. That process is under way.

According to Forbes, the Mets saw revenue fall 13 percent, resulting in an operating loss of $6.2 million in 2010, and a 25 percent drop in gate revenue in the second year of Citi Field. Attendance fell more than 600,000.

Forbes also reported that the Mets' owners owe $450 million in debt on the team. Team owners borrowed $25 million in December from Major League Baseball.

Responding to the report, a Mets spokesman said: "As we have stated previously, we are in the process of talking with a number of potential minority partners who are interested, qualified, and very real. We are confident we will complete an agreement that will ensure that we continue to have the resources to fully compete and win."

The Yankees topped  the list for the 14th straight year with a value of $1.7 billion, up from $1.6 billion. The Red Sox are second at $912 million, followed by the Dodgers,$800 million, Cubs, $773 million, and Mets.

"In general, the notion that the Mets' value has declined over the last year makes a lot of sense," said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor at Smith College who is an expert in sports economics. "In part it makes sense because the Mets had a bad year last year: attendance was down, the team wasn't a good team, they've got something like $50 million a year in debt service that they're paying on their new stadium. They were counting on the stadium paying off big-time last year and it didn't. That's going to hurt anybody, regardless of whether Madoff is connected to it."

Asked whether the Forbes report would affect efforts to sell part of the team, Zimbalist said: "These numbers have a little bit of currency in the sports world. Owners will look at them and will cite them, but after they look at them and cite them they'll make their own judgments about what a team is worth."

Overall, Forbes estimated MLB franchises' average worth is an all-time high $523 million. The magazine also estimated MLB revenue last year at $6.1 billion, a 4 percent increase. The rankings will appear in the magazine's April 11 issue.

The Yankees trail only the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL in the Forbes rankings of U.S. sports franchises. The Cowboys were valued at $1.805 billion in August.

A spokesman for MLB and a spokesman for the Yankees declined to comment on the report.

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