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NEWSWIRE

Mets owners are looking into partial sale of team

The owners are under pressure to raise money because a lawsuit stemming from the Bernard Madoff case.

January 28, 2011|Staff and wire reports

Under pressure because of a lawsuit from the trustee trying to reclaim money for the victims of the Bernard Madoff swindle, the New York Mets' owners said Friday that they are exploring a partial sale of the team that would raise several hundred million dollars.

Owner Fred Wilpon and his son, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, retained Steve Greenberg of Allen & Co., a Mets director, a former deputy baseball commissioner and a son of Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, to head the search for investors.

Fred Wilpon said the Mets were looking to sell a noncontrolling interest of 20% to 25% and that he did not envision giving up control of the franchise, which his family first bought into in 1980.

Court-appointed trustee Irving Picard has said the Mets made nearly $48 million in Madoff's scheme. He said the Mets Limited Partnership originally invested about $523 million but eventually withdrew about $571 million from the accounts.

In December, Picard sued dozens of entities affiliated with the Wilpons, the family real estate company Sterling Equities and Saul Katz, Fred Wilpon's brother-in-law and partner in the Mets and Sterling. The lawsuit in federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan is under seal, and it's not clear what the Wilpons' potential liability is.

"Because of that uncertainty, it is prudent in my view and reasonable and appropriate for us to explore our options," Fred Wilpon said during a conference call. "It is the right thing to do from a business perspective."

In a statement issued before the conference call, the Wilpons said they would explore "the addition of one or more strategic partners."

The Wilpons have been involved in settlement talks with Picard, who did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Fred Wilpon said his family will remain the Mets principal and controlling owners. Jeff Wilpon said it was possible the team would recapitalize rather than sell a stake.

PRO FOOTBALL

Union says injures increased this season

The NFL players union said the average number of injuries increased this season. In a report called "Dangers of the Game of Football," the NFLPA said injuries rose from 3.2 to 3.7 per week per team and the share of players injured increased to 63%, compared to an average of 59% from 2002 to 2009.

The report also shows that 13% of all injuries let to players being put on injured reserve this season, compared to an average of 10% from 2002 to 2009. The union said that indicates that injuries are becoming more serious.

The analysis is based on data from for the first 16 weeks of the regular season from Football Outsiders, which compiles information from the publicly available weekly injury reports.

The NFL also compiles such data. Its numbers also show more players on injured reserve than in recent years: 464 for the entire season, up from 388 the previous season, 416 in 2008 and 413 in 2007.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello noted, however, that the injured reserve numbers don't always indicate the severity of injuries.

"That number could include everything from rookies put on IR for the season with injuries of differing severity to players with relatively minor injuries who then reach injury settlements with their teams and are released," he said.

Cornerback Bryant McFadden, safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders returned to practice Friday for the first time since the Pittsburgh Steelers' AFC championship game victory.

McFadden strained his abdomen during a win over Baltimore in the divisional round but played Sunday in a diminished role. Sanders, a rookie, has an injured foot. Polamalu has been bothered by an Achilles' tendon injury, but it is not unusual for the All-Pro to sit out midweek practices.

All three — as well as left tackle Jonathan Scott (ribs) who has not practiced this week — are listed as probable for the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 against Green Bay at Arlington, Texas.

CYCLING

Alberto Contador sees himself as victim of system

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador plans to appeal any suspension for his failed doping test at cycling's showcase race, saying he feels like a "victim of the system."

"I will defend my innocence until the end," the Spanish rider said at a news conference in Mallorca, two days after Spanish cycling officials proposed a one-year ban for his positive clenbuterol test.

Contador blames the positive test on eating contaminated meat. The Spanish cycling federation accepted that defense and recommended a reduced ban rather than the standard two-year penalty. He also would be stripped of the 2010 Tour title.

"They are recognizing that I'm innocent and then they give me a one-year ban," the three-time Tour winner said. "I can't explain that. I can't defend that. I can't do anything more."

"Of course I feel like a victim — a victim of the system," he said.

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