Mets owner Fred Wilpon wants to select a minority-share partner by the end of this month, two people with knowledge of the talks said Friday.
There is a sense of urgency about the timetable because the team has mounting financial obligations due to the startup of its players' payroll and a loan coming due from Major League Baseball.
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The Mets took out a $25-million loan from Major League Baseball last November because the team had used up its $75-million line of credit.
Forbes magazine has reported the Mets have $450 million in debt.
Money from the partial sale to a new stakeholder -- estimated at $200 million -- will be earmarked to finance the team's day-to-day operations and to pay down debt, said a person familiar with the sale discussions.
The Mets also must now begin paying salaries to players, who are not paid during the off-season or spring training. The Mets have a 2011 payroll in the vicinity of $140 million, which averages to around $11.6 million doled out every two weeks.
Several minority ownership candidates have met with Wilpon and will do so again, said a person close to the discussions. After the winning bidder is selected, Major League Baseball will conduct a full vetting process, delaying the transaction another four to six weeks. The interested parties have been given access to the Mets' financial records.
The Mets said in January that Wilpon and his partner, Saul Katz, would sell as much as 25 percent of the team to deal with a lawsuit brought by the Bernard Madoff bankruptcy trustee that could reach $1 billion.
The trustee, Irving Picard, alleges the Mets ignored "red flags" that should have tipped them off about Madoff's illegal activity. Wilpon and Katz insist there were no such signs and filed a motion on March 20 asking the judge to dismiss the complaint due to "false allegations" and "false claims."
The team's value was recently downgraded to $747 million by Forbes. But one person involved in the sale talks said, "The marketplace will determine what a fully vetted deal with multiple sophisticated buyers values the team at. It doesn't matter what Forbes says. It's what these eight or so bidders think the value is."
The Wilpons have said they want to maintain majority control. With Jim Baumbach