Mets' sale of minority shares nearly done

The Mets anticipate closing on at least four minority shares of the team within a few weeks, a person familiar with the process said Wednesday.

The team hopes to sell 10 units for a total of $200 million to address debt left over from the 2011 season and help with operating expenses for 2012, according to the person.

Mets owner Fred Wilpon, speaking last night at the owners' meetings in Arizona, said: "It's a process and we're going through it and we've got some wonderful people."

Wilpon declined to name any of those people. Asked if he was optimistic, he said, "Yes, I am."

Proceeds from the initial sales, priced at $20 million each, would be used to pay off a $25-million loan extended by Major League Baseball 14 months ago, and, more recently, a $40-million bridge loan that a source said came from the Bank of America. Due dates on those obligations have not been revealed.

The Mets first announced that they would sell a portion of the team last January. They announced in late May that they were negotiating exclusively with hedge fund manager David Einhorn.

Those talks broke down in September over the amount of control Einhorn would have for his $200-million investment. The Mets then decided to seek multiple smaller investors who would not have a path to majority control.

Individuals involved in the potential unit sales have not been identified, but the Mets have said multiple units would not be made available to any single investor. The source said the sales were proceeding "in an acceptable fashion."

Those investing in the team, a source has said, will not face exposure to the $386- million suit against ownership brought by the trustee of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

The sales also are not said to be subject to review by CRG Partners, the bankruptcy and financial turnaround consulting firm recently hired by the Mets.

With Anthony Rieber

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