NEW YORK – Bernie Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme led to former New York Mets owners getting involved in a $ 1 billion lawsuit. $, Died in prison at the age of 82 years.
Madoff burned thousands of investors, outfoxed regulators and received a 150-year prison term. He died of natural causes at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.
Among his victims were director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. But he also had ties to sports figures. Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was a client. And former Mets owners Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz were big investors. Their commitment changed the course of the franchise.
Wilpon and Katz had over 500 accounts with Madoff and were sued for $ 1
Madoff was known for his double-digit returns and spread of words. Koufax was a high school friend of Wilpon. Former Mets player Tim Teufel, former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman and former New York Islanders player Bob Nystrom also invested in Madoff.
In addition, the Mets Limited Partnership, the New York Mets Foundation and the Brooklyn Baseball Company – the company that owns the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones – held accounts in Madoff.
While Madoff did business with the rich and famous, he also deceived everyday investors and charities. He was so mocked that he had to wear a bulletproof vest to court.
Madoff admitted to prosecutors that he lost more than $ 50 billion belonging to investors.
The collapse of his Ponzi scheme drastically affected the Mets’ finances, forcing Wilpons to borrow $ 65 million to meet the payroll, including $ 25 million from other baseball owners. The team previously negotiated complicated contracts that delayed money – including Bobby Bonilla’s infamous deal that pays the retired slugger $ 1 million a year through 2035 – to invest money with Madoff.
“Bernie was part of the Mets’ business plan,” a former team member told The New York Times in 2011.
The fallout reduced the team’s payroll from $ 140 million in 2011 to $ 95 million in 2012 to $ 85 million in 2014, as salaries rose throughout the game. Subsequently, the Wilpons slowly lost power and their financial share in the team.
Current Mets owner Steve Cohen bought 20 million. Dollars in minority investments in the Mets after the collapse of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and eventually the majority ownership of the franchise bought from the Wilpon and Katz families in September 2020.
Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to securities fraud and other charges. In June 2009, a judge ordered a $ 171 billion forfeiture order that deprived Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments and $ 80 million in assets.
The scandal also demanded a personal toll for Madoff’s family: One of his sons, Mark, killed himself on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest in 2010. And Madoff’s brother, Peter, who helped run the business, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. in 2012, despite allegations that he was in the dark about his brother’s misdeeds.
Madoff’s second son, Andrew, died of cancer at the age of 48. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, is still alive.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.