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Thursday, July 11, 2002
Mets' ownership squabble heads to court

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

New York Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon is suing his partner, Nelson Doubleday, for failure to sell his portion of the team.

Wilpon filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in New York for breach of contract, claiming Doubleday reneged on an agreement to sell his half of the Mets to Wilpon for half the team's net value. But Doubleday said he was not happy with a $391 million appraisal in April and threatened to file his own lawsuit on June 25. Based on the independent appraisal, Doubleday's net proceeds were determined to be $137.9 million.

Before the season, Forbes magazine estimated the team's worth at $482 million. Cablevision owner Charles Dolan reportedly twice offered to purchase the Mets for $500 million.

''If it wasn't reached correctly, if he didn't use the proper method to get from one and one to two, then you have a lawsuit,'' Doubleday said on June 25.

Wilpon, who was supposed to make his first payment to Doubleday in mid-August, alleges in the suit that Doubleday agreed to the independent appraisal and has to fulfill his obligation to the binding agreement.

A release issued Thursday by Wilpon's publicists said: "Mr. Doubleday signed the partnership agreement, initiated the sale process as part of that agreement, agreed to the independent appraiser, and now that the appraisal has been made, has stated that he will not fulfill his obligation under the binding agreement."

Attempts to reach Wilpon for comment on the lawsuit were unsuccessful.

Doubleday & Co., Doubleday's publishing firm, purchased the Mets in 1980 for $21.1 million, with Wilpon owning a 5 percent share of the team. When Doubleday & Co. was sold to Bertelsmann AG in 1986, it sold its shares of the team for $80.75 million to Wilpon and Doubleday, who became equal partners in the team's ownership.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espnpub.com.