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Robert Trigaux

Will Tampa Bay Rays minority investor Randy Frankel swap stake for piece of New York Mets?

21

March

newyorkmetslogo.gifWake up and good morning. We keep hearing that the owners of the New York Mets baseball team are in financial trouble because they invested (and were social buddies) with Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff. Now come the legal claws trying to get Mets' owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz to return up to $1 billion from what may be ill-gotten gains received from Madoff's chicanery. The legal battle on this matter is just beginning. 

There's a Tampa Bay Rays angle here. It seems one minority investor in the Rays may choose to sink his money into the Mets, instead. Read on.

On top of that, the Mets, the team's "Citi Field" stadium and SNY (the Mets' cable TV network) are reportedly laden with debt. Last November, facing a cash crunch, the team borrowed $25 million from Major League Baseball after reaching the $75 million limit of borrowing from M.L.B.’s industrywide bank credit line.

tampabayrayslogo.jpgWhy do we care? Because there are several investor groups looking over the books of the Mets and considering a minority investment in the franchise. Owners Wilpon and Katz need fresh money and apparently there are savvy people with lots of capital who see this opportunity as either (1) a good investment and perhaps a foot in the door should Wilpon and Katz later sell the team or (2) an ego boost to be part of a major New York area sports franchise. Experts in sports investing often warn that people who take minority stakes in pro sports franchises better be willing to lose much of what they invest and be willing to do what the majority owners want because they have little if any power over the team.

Enter Randy Frankel. He's a minority investor in the Tampa Bay Rays and part of the group lead by Rays' owner Stu Sternberg. Some conspiracy theorists wonder, if the Rays' future in Tampa Bay gets bleak without a new stadium, whether Sternberg would buy the Mets and hand the Rays back to MLB (it's happened in baseball before). Sternberg has stated he's not interested in the Mets.

But Frankel apparently is. Frankel is an accountant who ended up as a senior executive at the same Wall Street firm (Speer, Leeds & Kellogg) as Sternberg just before it was sold for billions to Goldman Sachs.

According to the New York Times here, Frankel would sell his share in the Rays should his group’s bid for the Mets be successful. That means someone else would need to buy Frankel's share in the Rays.

And which group does Frankel belong to that's looking at the Mets? The New York Times on Sunday said that it is headed by Steven Starker, a co-founder of BTIG, a global trading firm in which Goldman Sachs has a minority ownership. His consortium includes Frankel, plus Kenny Dichter, a co-founder of Marquis Jets; and Doug Ellin, the creator of the HBO show “Entourage.”

According to a bio on Frankel, in addition to his stake in the Rays, in 2005 he purchased Windham Mountain Ski Resort and Hotel in the Catskill Mountains in Windham, NY. Frankel, his alma mater bio at Hofstra University says, also "experienced the tragedy of September 11, 2001, firsthand when he was caught in the rubble of the World Trade Center."

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

 

[Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 8:03am]

    

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