Saul Katz says no interest in selling

Updated: May 13, 2014, 6:48 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Saul Katz, the brother-in-law of principal owner Fred Wilpon, has expressed an interest in selling his share of the New York Mets because of the repeated need to infuse the team with cash, The New York Times reported. 

The Wilpon-Katz family currently controls a majority share of the club. However, Katz is leery of parting with shares that together would allow other investors to gain a majority, according to the report.

Katz strongly denied that report in a statement on Monday.

"I have no intention of selling my share of the Mets nor have I ever had any intention of selling my share," the statement read.

Such a sale could undermine the ability of the Wilpon family to continue controlling the club -- including Fred Wilpon's son, Jeff, who is acting as chief operating officer.

Katz has served as team president since 2002, when the Wilpons bought out co-owner Nelson Doubleday.

The report highlights the internal issues swirling around the Mets, who have reduced their payroll to roughly $86 million this season after operating at levels approaching $150 million during the final days of former general manager Omar Minaya's regime.

Fans, upset with the team having suffered five straight losing seasons, and with a lack of spending at levels customary in New York, have stayed away from the ballpark, further placing a drag on the team's finances.

[+] EnlargeFred Wilpon and Saul Katz
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyNew York Mets owner Saul Katz, right, sits with Fred Wilpon. Katz denied a report that said he was interested in selling his share of the team.

Average home attendance has gone from 51,165 in the final year of Shea Stadium in 2008, to 38,941 the following year in the first season at Citi Field, to 32,401 in 2010, then 30,108, then 28,035, and to 26,695 in 2013.

The Wilpons appear to have weathered the biggest financial storms from their losses from convicted swindler Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Still, they recently needed to borrow $25 million from Major League Baseball. That obligation has been repaid, but several other large loans remain.

As part of a settlement, the family owes roughly $80 million to the trustee recovering funds for victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme, because certain funds the family owned made money. That obligation is due in equal installments in 2016 and 2017.

The finances had been shaky enough that the Wilpon family sold 40 percent of the team to investors in 4 percent blocks in recent years, although some of those shares were purchased by family members.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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