LIer intrigued by idea of buying into Mets

Mike Repole, left, co-founder of Glaceau Vitaminwater. (2006) Mike Repole, left, co-founder of Glaceau Vitaminwater. (2006) Photo Credit: File / Charles Eckert

advertisement | advertise on newsday

As the Wilpons begin to search for minority owners for the Mets, the investment firm handling the process already has returned at least one person's call.

Long Island resident Mike Repole, who co-founded Glaceau Vitaminwater before selling it in 2007 for $4.1 billion, told Newsday that his representatives received a message Monday from Allen & Co.

A lifelong Mets fan raised in Queens, Repole, 42, said he told them to contact Allen & Co., Friday afternoon after the Wilpons announced that they're willing to sell 20 to 25 percent of the team.

Before the Wilpons did that, the owners had been reaching out privately to potential buyers for several months, a sports consultant with direct knowledge of such inquiries said Monday.

Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based SportsCorp, said he learned several months ago that the Mets approached three "very wealthy people" in financial services and real estate.

None agreed to terms, one because he was not interested unless the deal included a path to a controlling interest, Ganis said. The Wilpon family has said it does not want to give that up.

The Wilpons kept their overtures as private as possible. At the baseball owners' regular meetings in Arizona last month, the Mets owners' financial situation was not addressed, a high-ranking baseball official with direct knowledge of the meetings said Monday. He added he was unaware of the Wilpons' decision to seek investors until it was announced Friday.

"Anyone who tells you they know what's going on is only speculating," he said, "unless they know what the claims [from special trustee Irving Picard's lawsuit] are and the exact condition of the Wilpons' finances."

Since that announcement, however, an eclectic group of prospective "strategic partners" have announced their interest.

Repole, chairman and major investor of Pirate's Booty snack foods and Energy Kitchen health restaurants, has been a Mets season-ticket holder since 1997 and is "intrigued" by the thought of becoming a part-owner. But he stressed that any potential deal must make sense to both parties.

"I think I can offer them financial capital and intellectual capital," said Repole, a St. John's graduate who owns Kentucky Derby hopeful Uncle Mo. "And in the long, long run, intellectual capital will be worth a lot more than financial capital."

Another possibility is Martin Luther King III, who has been linked to a group that includes former Met Ed Kranepool, Donn Clendenon Jr., son of another former Met, and former SportsChannel executive Larry Meli.

King told The Associated Press Monday that his interest "was blown up way out of proportion."

Meli, in an interview with Newsday Monday, said King wanted to make it clear "he's not the lead horse here" but remains involved.

Earlier, in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, King said his decision to attach his powerful name to this type of venture was to raise attention to the scarcity of minority owners.

Most of the Mets' largest sponsors said the Wilpons had not approached them. Through spokesmen, a few declined to comment, including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Nike and Cablevision Systems Corp., owner of Newsday.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Citigroup, which purchased the naming rights to the Mets' stadium for $400 million, doesn't want a stake in the team. Citi spokesman Stephen Silverman said, "We are happy with our partnership with the Mets and have no plans to go beyond our current sponsorship."

With Anthony Rieber, Neil Best and James T. Madore

You also may be interested in: