June 02, 2011

James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window

James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window

Otherwise, everything’s hunky-dory. I had great dinners downtown with Graydon Carter and wonderful ones uptown with Conrad Black, who was in fine form. A cocktail party for Henry Kissinger’s book On China was also fun, the great man having written a hell of a book about a superpower that the more we get to know, the less we understand. And then we have the scandal of the New York Mets, a baseball team hijacked by two real-estate sharks who made their big moolah with Madoff and are now playing the victims because it’s clawback time. Let the poor little Greek boy explain:

Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz were two small-time real-estate developers who got lucky in 1980 when Charles Shipman Payson put the New York Mets franchise on sale for a song. In partnership with Nelson Doubleday, Jr., the duo got the team by putting up only 650,000 greenbacks each, with Doubleday financing the rest. When television contracts pushed baseball-franchise values through the roof, the duo bought out the remaining Mets shares from Doubleday—a descendant of the man mistakenly credited with inventing baseball—for $135 million dollars. They had made serious money after purchasing the team from some very shrewd investments with an unknown genius by the name of Bernie Madoff.

You all know the rest, but what very few realized at the time is that the duo reportedly contemplated time and again to insure themselves against potential fraud committed by—you guessed it—Bernard Madoff. According to the trustee investigating the Ponzi scheme, Irving H. Picard, Wilpon and Katz’s decision to shop for insurance is proof that they knew Madoff was cheating.

An article about the Wilpon-Katz mess and the Mets recently appeared in the New Yorker. What I found shocking was the tone of Jeffrey Toobin’s piece—a tone I would use if writing about Robert E. Lee or Heinz Guderian. Toobin even quoted Madoff from jail about what good guys the two sharks are. Wilpon and Katz, using the doofus Toobin as their spokesman, do not want to give back the close to $1 billion Picard is claiming. The New Yorker should have never run the piece because it’s obvious the two sharks snowed Toobin, a very funny-looking little man. There is no rationale—in law or in fact—that justifies the retention of stolen money.

But this is Noo Yawk, and the duo are whining, and whining very loudly. The money has to be given back because the duo became billionaires due to the fraud. At best the duo were greedy dupes. Most likely they knew very well after 25 years that Madoff was cheating. Give back the moolah.



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