From the Judge’s Ruling Yesterday, Wilpons Will Battle Picard at Trial – Where are the Sales of Minority Mets Interests? – Installment 70

March 6, 2012Articles White Collar Defense & Compliance Blog

This blog series has been monitoring key milestones in the epic battle of Madoff Trustee Irving Picard against the Wilpon-Katz-Mets individual, business, family trust and charitable interests (the “Wilpons”). Yesterday Judge Jed S. Rakoff issued an Order (the “March 5 Order”) (sans Opinion, which he said will come some time later) in the ever-heating litigation that will culminate with an upcoming March 19 trial date. Even after a trial, however, either or both sides can be expected to appeal. The effect of the continuing uncertainty on efforts of the Wilpons to sell minority interests in the Mets remains unclear.

In his March 5 Order, Judge Rakoff denied the Wilpons’ motion for summary judgment while expressing the view that “the Court remains skeptical that the Trustee can ultimately rebut the defendants' showing of good faith, let alone impute bad faith to all the defendants.” Therefore, absent a settlement, which appears unlikely, Judge Rakoff’s jury trial commencement date of March 19 looms ahead for the Wilpons and Picard.

Additionally, Judge Rakoff granted Picard’s partial summary judgment motion, subject to determination of “the exact amount thereby due the Trustee (though capped at the $83,309,162 that the Trustee expressly seeks on this motion), and how payment should be apportioned among the defendants.”

In writing about the March 5 Order in his article entitled “Mets Must Pay, Go to Trial,” Adam Rubin pointed out,

. . . how the judge apportions the money owed among the cash-strapped Wilpon family, its business and charities will be “critical.” Any member of Wilpon's party seeking to appeal the ruling likely will be required to post a bond worth 110 percent of Rakoff's verdict against them. That would ensure that Picard ultimately will collect the money if the ruling is not overturned by a higher court.

Installments 69 and 58 of this blog series discussed earlier postings by Mr. Rubin and Richard Sandomir of The New York Times regarding the often-alleged continuing efforts of the Wilpons to sell for $20 million each, up to 10 minority 4% pieces of the Mets (the “Minority Sales”). The earlier Installments discussed the legal complexities for Minority Sales, which were originally rumored to be scheduled for the end of January, then the end of February and now still indefinite in time frame. Each time an important trial date surfaces for the Wilpons, discussion of putative Minority Sales becomes almost inaudible.

As stated in Installment 69,

Minority Sales could be delayed indefinitely by the concerns of cautious lawyers for the potential buyers about the pricing of the Minority Interests that theoretically gives the Mets a total value of $500 million. If such value can be found to be inadequate under some credible valuation standard, Picard could possibly attack the sales under New York law as inadequate.

This case clearly will have many more developments in the near future.

[To be continued in Installment 71]