Did Mets $300 Million Meltdown Sink Soccer Sale?

The Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme isn’t just impacting American sports: it’s having a chilling effect on teams worldwide. We previously reported that Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz lost up to $300 million of their personal fortunes they had invested with Madoff. Now the MANCHESTER GUARDIAN reports that the $50 billion fraud case may have also cost Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley a chance to sell his team.

Mets and Newcastle United burn money

The potential owners were “two wealthy Americans” who were interested in meeting Ashley’s $300 million price tag for the team, one of the largest in the English Premier League. But the buyers backed out after they lost roughly that amount in investments made with Madoff. Wait a second, this sounds awfully familiar. Didn’t I just write that Mets owners Wilpon and Katz lost $300 million to Madoff?

To add to the coincidences: Wilpon has shown an interest in soccer before. During the early 1980s, New York United, a soccer team in the now-defunct American Soccer League, played their games at Shea Stadium. And more tellingly, the NEW YORK TIMES has reported on his potential interest in bringing a second MLS team to New York to play on the old Shea Stadium site.

So was it Wilpon and Katz who were the “two wealthy Americans” in question? The New York Mets media department offered a “no comment” when asked by SPORTS BY BROOKS to confirm or deny ownership’s previous interest in Newcastle United, so we’ll have to wait and see if more information develops, but it does seem like a very odd series of coincidences.

If Wilpon and Katz were the two mystery suitors, they would join a virtual Who’s Who of Americans purchasing or investing in EPL teams. The same story in THE GUARDIAN also mentions that Rams/Nuggets/Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke is investing heavily in EPL power Arsenal. Other teams with American owners or significant investors include Manchester United (Malcolm Glazer), Liverpool (Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.) and Derby County (Andrew Appleby).

And what about Newcastle United? Ashley took the team off the selling block late December after a search for owners that took him to the Middle East and apparently the US. So now he’s “stuck” with a team that he’s invested roughly $340 million in since purchasing them in May 2007, and fans who would really like to see him gone. Plus, he can’t even drink at the games!