A list of prospective candidates seeking minority ownership of the Mets has been sent to Major League Baseball for review, sources familiar with the situation said Monday.
The Mets have said they would sell up to 25 percent of the team after a lawsuit was brought by the trustee for victims in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme that is seeking to recover as much as $1 billion from owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.
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Trustee Irving Picard accused them of turning "a blind eye" to the huge profits Madoff produced for them. Wilpon and Katz have denied wrongdoing.
"It's a preliminary step," a source said of the applicants. "It doesn't mean that they would be approved to be an owner of the team."
Those deemed serious bidders are vetted by MLB to determine their financial suitability, with an extensive investigation into their business and personal background.
What is expected in the Mets' scenario, a person close to the situation said, will be "a non-controlling stake sold to a small group of individuals who come together as one or perhaps a single individual with a non-controlling stake that will stabilize the economics of the franchise."
Mets ownership, led by Fred Wilpon and his son, Jeff, insist they will not entertain offers for majority control, but the person said that could change based on a mediated agreement or court-awarded amount of the Madoff suit.
"Ridiculous as it sounds,'' the source said, "if there's a judgment that's so big that it overwhelms the financial resources, then obviously all bets are off."
The Mets borrowed $25 million from MLB in November to help with operating expenses. That will be repaid, the person said, with funding from the new partnership.
"The job is to focus on selling a sufficient piece of the Mets to deal with the existing economic issues confronting the New York Mets, which is too much debt at the moment.
"These proceeds will be used to pay off some debt and the rest to fund operations for 2011 and 2012. That's the sole purpose of this refinancing, to get the ratios of debt and equity back into balance."