NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is reportedly leading yet another effort to provide financing for the New York Mets as the overleveraged, Ponzi-schemed baseball team's owner seeks to shore up its balance sheet.
According to the New York Post, the Mets "desperately" need tens of millions of dollars to cover basic operating expenses and have sought financing assistance from JPMorgan. The bank, which is a central financier for Major League Baseball, corralled a team of lenders including Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) to lend $430 million to the Mets last year.
The Mets' finances have gone asunder due to the owner's involvement with Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. The owner, Fred Wilpon, got out just in time before Madoff was caught, reaping a $48 million profit from his investments with the fraudster's investment firm. But he's been targeted by Irving Picard, the trustee for victims of Madoff's scheme, who's reportedly seeking to recoup as much as $1 billion from Wilpon.As a result, Wilpon is looking to sell a minority stake in the Mets to deal with his Madoff-related woes. The Post said the team needs some cash to tide it over until an investor is found. Ironically, JPMorgan has also been ensnared in Picard's pursuit of Madoff-related profiteers. A lawsuit against JPMorgan by Picard was unveiled last month, seeking $6.4 billion and charging the firm with ignoring blatant signals and employee concerns about Madoff's phantom profits. The bank has denied any wrongdoing and pledged to defend itself against the allegations. Shortly after the case was announced, JPMorgan requested a trial by jury rather than judge. As for the Mets deal, the Post cited an anonymous source who said both the Mets and the MLB are "exerting strong pressure" on JPMorgan to find new funds for the financially strapped team. The Mets franchise is now losing about $50 million a year, with outstanding debt of $505 million, according to the paper. -- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.
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