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Did the Mets Really Make Money Off Madoff?

The headline in the Wall Street Journal this morning was certainly baffling: “Mets Win One: Owners Made Money Off Madoff.”

The reporters did a great job of unearthing the fact that a recent bankruptcy court filing revealed that two accounts associated with the Mets Limited Partnership MADE $48 million off Madoff.

Before we go any further, let’s get to the issues.

1. If the Mets Limited Partnership deposited $523 million and withdrew $571 million, how much are they entitled to keeping? The question will come down to when they withdrew the money. If it was within the last six years, they might have to give all their fictitious gains back. If the Mets Limited Partnership got a standard Madoff return (10 to 12 percent), this money was likely only active for one year. To go from $523 million to $571 million is a 9.1 percent gain.

2. All this is really a moot point if the Mets primary owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz did lose a significant amount of money from Madoff. The Mets have said that any money invested in Madoff will not affect the operations of the team. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Wilpon’s name appears 22 times on Madoff’s client list and that former Mets general manager Steve Phillips, who worked in the team’s front office from 1990 to 2003, said he “heard Bernie Madoff’s name once a week every week for 13 years.”

3. The key will be another offseason to observe the Mets actions. The Mets had a relatively quiet offseason last year when all this came out, but they also had the second highest payroll in baseball. Stuck with a team that might not be as good as they thought they were and a new ballpark that won’t automatically fill itself, the spending habits of this offseason will be a bit more telling. If the Mets ownership thinks their gains are going to have to be returned, look for them to be conservative. Johan Santana’s contract over the next two seasons is worth $43.5 million.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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