How much financial trouble are the Wilpons in?

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The speculation surrounding today’s announcement that the Wilpons are looking to sell a stake in the Mets has included chatter about just how hard the government is going after them as a result of the Bernie Madoff mess.  The short version: the lawsuit filed against the Wilpons is to “claw back” money that Madoff gave to the Wilpons that, in reality, had been taken from investors farther down the pyramid.  And no, it doesn’t matter if the Wilpons knew it was stolen money (which they apparently did not).

Against that backdrop came this tweet from Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post:

One of my sources from #Mets beat told me gov’t seeking $1B(!) clawback from Wilpon/Katz. No way they can keep the team if that’s true.

Hubbuch’s numbers are corroborated by Ken Belson of the New York Times, who has considerably more background here.

Even if these numbers are not accurate, however, the key point is clear: the Wilpons’ current financial situation is going to be directly impacted by how much the government is seeking in its clawback lawsuit. If it’s anything close to figure Hubbuch is reporting, they will have to sell way more than a minority share in the Mets.  Indeed, they’ll likely have to sell the whole team.

*Note: In an earlier version of this post I had referred to Hubbuch as “an NFL writer.”  Which he currently is. I was unaware, however, that was previously on the Mets beat.  I’m told that he has been following the Madoff/Wilpon story closely and that his previous tweets about the situation have been accurate. Apologies to Hubbuch for my dubiousness.