New York Mets fans are a passionate bunch. We have no problem griping about how Jerry Manuel couldn’t manage a bullpen, Carlos Beltran struck out to end the 2006 playoff run or sending in Oliver Perez is the equivalent of raising the white flag.
But one fan is leading a charge that just might give others some control over the team.
Long Islander Jim Preissler wants to borrow a play from the Green Bay Packers playbook and sell public ownership rights for $999 apiece.
“The other goal for all of this is to provide transparency of the ownership back to the fans. The fans would have a voice on how the team progresses going forward. That would allow a lot of these outside interests to be minimized and focus on creating the best team,” he said.
Preissler, 39, grew up watching the Mets with his grandfather. Now an investment banker specializing in helping companies go public on stock exchanges like NASDAQ, he roots for New York teams, although he tends to favor the Mets.
He and two friends, including a non-Mets fan living in Dallas, were handling some transactions earlier this year when they learned about Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s financial ties to scam artist Bernie Madoff. Madoff Trustee Irving Picard sued Wilpon over $1 billion in damages, while the team owner said he owes much less or nothing.
“We’ve done some particular transactions, structures that would be applicable here to potentially solving a lot of the Mets problems,” Preissler said.
They believed fans could own at least part of the team. That would provide extra money should the Madoff debacle sap the Wilpon’s accounts, while adding more transparency in ownership and an opportunity for fans to make money.
Their next step was to test the market. BUYTHEMETS.com went live in the middle of February for fans to sign up, but the demand was so high it actually knocked the website offline for a while.
“I guess it wasn’t made to handle so many concurrent registrations at the same time,” he said.
Preissler said the numbers proved the demand existed, although he refused to disclose specific figures. More could have registered, he added, had the site stayed online.
The website remains active, but the trio has since contacted investment bankers with Wilpon’s Sterling Equities with the idea. They had not responded as of Thursday, although Preissler expected to hear back before long.
“I already have top lawyers and auditors in place. The real key here is getting the Wilpons and their bankers to understand the benefit of going down this path,” he said.
No details of their proposal have been released, as the Northport resident said they have several options. Fans could repurchase debt and receive interest, they could buy a stake in the team itself or they could mix and match.
What Preissler did confirm was that he wants to use publicly-traded stock to accomplish whatever their plan ends up being.
“There are some other quicker options, but I think that is the cleanest, most effective path. I have a potential plan B and C but I’d rather use traditional buttoned-up approach,” he said.
Sterling Equities and MLB Commissioner Allan Selig did not return requests for comment.