|Tuesday, August 13
Selig helps Doubleday, Wilpon reach deal
NEW YORK -- Nelson Doubleday agreed Tuesday to sell his 50 percent of the New York Mets to co-owner Fred Wilpon, settling an ugly lawsuit filled with accusations of misconduct.
Wilpon sued Doubleday last month in federal court to try to force a sale of his partner's 50 percent share based on a $391 million appraisal of the team made in March by Robert Starkey.
There was no immediate word on the price Doubleday will receive as part of the agreement, which was first reported Tuesday on Newsday's Web site.
Under the Starkey appraisal, Doubleday would have received $137.9 million -- half the team's value, after adjustments for the team's debt.
"I think there was always stability, but now the dispute seems to be settled and that's terrific,'' Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "Wilpon ownership is as good as it gets.''
Wilpon has been more involved in the team's daily operations in recent years.
"On a day-to-day basis, it won't change what I do,'' general manager Steve Phillips said. "I think it's business as usual.''
In addition to a higher appraisal, Doubleday had been seeking provisions for an additional payment in the event the Mets move into a new ballpark, which would increase the team's value.
Dick Cummins, a Doubleday adviser, confirmed the agreement but would not elaborate, and Wilpon spokesman Richard Auletta said the announcement of the settlement by commissioner Bud Selig "speaks for itself.''
Wilpon will move to dismiss his suit when the deal closes, Selig's office said. The commissioner's office said the sale is expected to close within 30 days.
"I was confident that at the end of the day they put their personal feelings aside and act in the best interests of the game,'' said Selig, whose mediation led to the settlement.
"We could not have completed the deal without the direct involvement and help of commissioner Selig,'' Wilpon said. "I am sorry the commissioner had to become involved.''
In a counterclaim last week, Doubleday asked the court to throw out the appraisal, claiming Starkey was biased because of his work for Selig.
Doubleday, saying the Mets were worth far more, claimed the commissioner's office was "in cahoots'' with Wilpon to put an artificially low value on the Mets, and said Starkey and Selig conspired to "manufacture phantom operating losses'' in baseball's books as part of its strategy in labor talks. Wilpon and major league baseball denied the allegations.
"I am pleased this is behind us,'' Doubleday said in a statement issued by the commissioner's office. "While I was not happy with the results of the appraisal, I deeply regret and apologize for the conclusions many drew from the papers that were filed last week by my lawyers.
"I did not in any way mean to impugn the integrity of the commissioner, who has been a longtime friend and will continue to remain one, or anyone from his office. Nor did I intend the counterclaim to get in the way of the ongoing collective-bargaining process. That was not my intent or goal. If it did, I apologize to the commissioner and to Don Fehr if it in any way had a negative effect on bargaining.''
Doubleday & Co., a publisher, bought the Mets in 1980 from the family of founding owner Joan Payson for $21.1 million, with the company owning 95 percent of the team and Wilpon owning 5 percent.
When Doubleday & Co. was sold to the media company Bertelsmann AG in 1986, the publisher sold its shares of the team for $80.75 million to Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners.