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Saturday, February 5, 2011
Picard wants $1 billion from Wilpon/Katz

By Adam Rubin

The lawsuit unsealed Friday does not specify the exact amount sought from Fred and Jeff Wilpon, Saul Katz and Sterling companies beyond $300 million in allegedly fraudulent profits (as well as a smaller amount invested by Bernard Madoff in Sterling businesses, and any money withdrawn from Madoff accounts in the final 90 days before the collapse.)

However, the total amount sought because the family allegedly looked the other way turns out to be $1 billion, a plaintiff's lawyer told The New York Times.

“What the trustee is looking for here is a payment in cash,” attorney David Sheehan, who leads trustee Irving Picard's team, told the newspaper. “So whether they utilize the Mets, SNY, Sterling properties or any other resource is of no moment to us. What we’re looking for is a billion dollars, and unless we settle for less than that, which we’re not inclined to do, where they get the money is of no moment to us.”

Throwing out the astronomical sum likely in part is designed to compel the Wilpons to settle for a lesser figure. But that staggering potential liability if the case ends up at trial demonstrates just how dire things might become for the Wilpon family, and just how tenuous their hold on the Mets may become.

Picard seeks the hundreds of millions of extra dollars -- even the principal the Wilpons invested with Bernard Madoff -- because he alleges the Wilpons knew, or should have known because of repeated warnings and other indicators, that Madoff was doing funny business.