The Mets’ owners appear to be on the verge of finally putting the team’s financial problems behind them, The Post has learned. Cash-strapped Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, who faced perhaps an insurmountable spring principal payment on their $250 million loan, are close to refinancing the note, sources said.
“This will be oversubscribed,” a source considering investing in the Bank of America refinancing said.The re-fi — the biggest off-field hurdle the team faced this off-season — will likely close in February or March, the source said.
Until recently, it wasn’t certain investors weren’t going to insist the team owners pay down some of the loan to get the refinancing done. Wilpon and Katz will not be asked for any cash paydown, sources said. Plus, interest payments are expected to stay about the same, a source with direct knowledge of the situation said. The rate will likely end up at Libor, plus 300 basis points, or a shade under 4 percent, a source said.
The seven-year re-fi will give Wilpon and Katz much- desired financial breathing room, sources said. For the longtime friends and team owners, it is perhaps the best outcome they could have hoped for.
For Mets fans hoping for new ownership to breathe new life — along with some power and pitching — into the line-up, perhaps the news is less thrilling. There is a bit of a silver-lining for critics of Wilpon and Katz: There are no payroll limits written into the re-worked loan, a source added. The existing loan restricts the team from greatly expanding payroll.
For 2014, the Mets are expected to slightly increase payroll to more than $90 million from $85 million.
The Mets spent $87 million in the off-season signing Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young. Mets sources believe payroll will increase slowly in coming years, but probably won’t get back to 2010’s $140 million level anytime soon. The Mets — which still have to make their interest payments — lost more than $10 million in 2013.
Depending on attendance and payroll, the team could turn a profit this year since the value of a new national TV deal jumps by $25 million per team. Mets attendance has fallen for five straight years. Last year they drew 26,695 fans per game.
Still, this is quite an Amazin’ comeback for the Mets, who didn’t have the cash to make revenue-sharing payments in 2010 and 2011 — forcing them to borrow $65 million from Major League Baseball and Bank of America, sources said. “The fact they are still here after Madoff is a miracle,” a sports industry source said, referring to the financial hit Wilpon and Katz took in the Madoff Ponzi scheme.
In 2012, the Mets were able to raise $240 million by selling 40 percent of the team to a group of minority investors that included hedge-fund honcho Steve Cohen and comedian Bill Maher. The minority stake sales allowed Wilpon and Katz to pay off MLB and BofA. In addition, the partners paid more than $100 million toward $430 million of team debt that they are now in the process of refinancing.
A Mets spokesman declined to comment.