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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Updated: May 4, 8:22 AM ET
Source: Mets to sell stake this month

By Adam Rubin
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The sale of a minority stake in the New York Mets likely will be completed by the end of this month, a source with knowledge of the process tells ESPNNewYork.com. The announcement could come before June 1.

"It's not imminent," a source said. "A lot of people have been speculating this week, or the next few days. That's just not the case."

Four groups are believed to have made the final cut, from among the eight who originally submitted non-binding bids. The New York Post identifies those groups as headed by hedge-fund guru Steve Cohen, former Glencore commodity traders Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza, hedge-fund manager Anthony Scaramucci and 1-800-Flowers.com founder James McCann.

"It's really just negotiating a deal," said the person, who did not want to be identified.

The final four were selected based on financial criteria as well as those who are believed to be most compatible with owner Fred Wilpon, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and president Saul Katz.

The family believes it will raise $200 million from the sale of the minority share, which would go toward paying off a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball received in October, as well as a reported $22 million stadium bond payment due in June. (There are two payments of that figure due per year on the bonds that financed Citi Field's construction.)

The percentage of ownership, up to 49 percent, is variable -- with the Wilpons seeking the $200 million amount and leaving what stake of the team that purchases to an eventual agreed-upon valuation of the club.

One presumption had been that the $1 billion-plus lawsuit against the Mets ownership family brought by Bernard Madoff trustee Irving Picard would need to be resolved before a sale could be completed. That's not the case, according to the source.

There will be protections in case something adverse were to happen in the lawsuit and the team somehow ended up getting dragged toward bankruptcy if the principal owners were further destabilized financially.

One person familiar with the sale said the winning bidder will be "comfortable on a whole number of issues. That's one of them."

Still, that does not mean the Wilpons intend to bring in a partner who will oust them someday as majority owners without their consent.

"Non-controlling means non-controlling," a person familiar with the matter said. "Nothing has changed on that."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.