NEW YORK -- The Mets took out a $40 million loan with Major League Baseball's blessing sometime in the past six weeks, the team confirmed Monday after a report in The New York Times detailed the situation. The Mets still have not paid back the $25 million loan MLB granted them late last year.
A Mets spokesman called the money a "bridge loan," meaning it should help cover operating expenses while the team continues to seek minority investors.
"The bridge loan was approved by Major League Baseball and the syndicate of lenders to the Mets," the team said in a statement Monday evening. "The process for the sale of minority shares in the team continues to go very well."
Those words echo what chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in early November: that the sale of minority shares was proceeding without issue. After the team broke off talks in September that would have granted hedge-fund manager David Einhorn a significant minority stake in the team with the potential for majority ownership, Mets executives said the club was abandoning its plan to find a single minority investor. Instead, the Mets began searching for multiple investors to buy small, roughly $20 million stakes in the club.
Since that process began, Commissioner Bud Selig has been asked twice publicly if the Mets had paid back their $25 million loan. Both times Selig said no, reiterating that the situation is not distressing him.
"I don't have any concerns about the Mets, as I've told you before," Selig said during a World Series news conference in October. "They are working on an alternative financing plan and they seem to be very encouraged, and I'm encouraged. I do have a lot of worries today, but frankly, the Mets are not one of them."
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson revealed last week that the Mets recently lost $70 million -- losses, he said, that are unrelated to ownership's ongoing Bernard Madoff litigation. He did not reveal whether the $70 million figure was for the 2011 fiscal year alone.
"Big losses," Alderson said when pressed on the matter. "Let's put it that way."
Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz are roughly one year removed from discovering that Irving Picard, the trustee seeking to recover funds from Madoff's Ponzi scheme, was suing them for $1 billion, and 11 months removed from revealing their plan to sell a portion of the club. If they do not settle, Wilpon and Katz may face a jury trial this spring.
Regardless, Alderson reiterated as recently as last week that the Madoff litigation has not factored into the team's decision to lower payroll from roughly $140 million at this time last year to potentially less than $100 million come Opening Day.