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Mets, Citi Field not affected by Madoff

Mets, Citi Field not affected by Madoff

NEW YORK -- Despite personal losses for Mets ownership in Bernard Madoff's alleged $50 billion investment fraud scheme, the club's chief operating officer, Jeff Wilpon, assured this week that the team would remain unaffected.

"Not at all," Wilpon said when asked whether the losses, reportedly up to $300 million, would affect baseball operations.

Wilpon also confirmed that no aspect of the team's new stadium, Citi Field, is in danger, and that the Mets are not for sale.

News broke this month that Sterling Equities, the real estate company owned by Mets owner Fred Wilpon, had been misled into investing in what became a widely reported Ponzi scheme. Madoff, accused of being the scheme's architect, was placed under house arrest on Wednesday, according to multiple news outlets. He may have swindled up to $50 billion from clients.

Jeff Wilpon, Fred's son, described Madoff as "somebody you trusted," both on a personal and a business level. Jeff attended Roslyn (N.Y.) High School with Mark Madoff, the son of Bernard Madoff.

"We'd like to have hope," Wilpon said about recouping some of their investments. "I think a lot of people would like to have hope."

The Mets will soon finish construction on the $850 million ballpark, which is set to open in April. Citibank bought the naming rights for 20 years at $20 million per year. Jeff Wilpon said on Wednesday that the pyramid scheme would not affect either the new stadium or the team itself. The Mets opened last season with the third-highest payroll in the Major Leagues, at roughly $138 million, and that number likely will increase after the Mets are through acquiring players this offseason.

The Mets have signed free-agent closer Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year deal worth $37 million and traded for J.J. Putz, who will make $5.3 million next season. They are in talks to acquire another free-agent starter and will need to come to new terms with John Maine, Ryan Church and others, either in separate negotiations or through arbitration.

"I'm completely confident," general manager Omar Minaya said. "I have no doubt, all the confidence that that is a separate, unfortunate situation, of course, but separate from the baseball operations."

Wilpon said that because of his family's diversified holdings, Sterling Equities' loss will not affect the Mets, and he told The Associated Press that the team was "categorically, totally, completely not for sale."

"The individual partners lost some money at Madoff," he told The AP. "It doesn't affect the Mets. It doesn't affect the Citi Field project. It doesn't affect SNY or any of our other operating businesses."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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