August 07, 2002
Mets owner cries foul

Nelson Doubleday, co-owner of the New York Mets, has accused Beelzebud Selig of conspiring to "manufacture phantom operating losses".

Doubleday is attempting to sell his half of the Mets to Fred Wilpon under an agreement they signed in 1986 when they bought the team. An auditor named Robert Starkey, who used to be with Arthur Andersen and is now a consultant to MLB, was brought in by Selig to assign a price to Doubleday's portion of the team. Doubleday is suing Wilpon to accept Starkey's price, but Wilpon is asserting that Starkey, at the behest of Selig, deliberately set it too low.

After Starkey put a $391 million value on the team in April, Doubleday balked at going through with a sale and Wilpon sued him last month.

"Unbeknownst to Doubleday, MLB was at the same time engaged in a systematic effort to undervalue baseball franchises as part of its labor-relations strategy," Doubleday's lawyers said Tuesday in an answer filed to Wilpon's suit. "In short, MLB in a desperate attempt to reverse decades of losses to MLB's players' association determined to manufacture phantom operating losses and depress franchise values."

One can only put so much faith in what a plaintiff's lawyer says as the lawsuit is being filed, but if this can be proven, it would be huge. Given baseball's paranoia about its books, I can't believe they'll actually let a real discovery process happen. Watch for this to be settled in one of those "both sides claim victory" kind of ways.

Finally, Dan Lewis notes that Doubleday has a good case when he says that auditor Sharkey understated the Mets' appraised value.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 07, 2002 to Baseball