For better or worse, the family’s imprint — including the showcase stadium that opened in 2009 — has been as much a part of the fabric of the club as its famous skyline logo.
Fred Wilpon gained ownership of half of the team in 1986, and then assumed full control when he bought Nelson Doubleday’s half in 2002 for $135 million — a figure that was reached by halving the team’s value of roughly $400 million and subtracting debt.
All told, the Wilpon family has been part of the primary ownership group of the Mets for more than half of the club’s 59-season history.
It was a bumpy tenure, to be sure. There were successes, like when the Mets reached the World Series in 2000 and 2015. They also designed and built Citi Field, one of the gleaming examples of a new breed of elegant baseball stadiums, with financial assistance from the public sector, as the value of the franchise increased roughly sixfold.
But they never won the World Series with the Wilpons in charge, with their most recent title coming in 1986, months before Fred Wilpon officially took control of half the team. In the 18 years since the family gained full ownership, the Mets only reached the postseason three times and seemed to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding, often with limited financial resources.
At times the Mets were among the biggest spenders in baseball, but at other points fans complained they were financially constrained, spending like a smaller market team operating in the nation’s most populous city. That infuriated many loyal fans, whose historical sense of inferiority to the crosstown Yankees was exacerbated by the limited resources of their own club — especially in the wake of the Bernard L. Madoff financial scandal.
Katz and the Wilpons had invested heavily with Madoff’s firm for years, even running some of the team’s finances and investments through it. But after Madoff was arrested in 2008 for orchestrating a Ponzi scheme with investors’ money, the family and the team lost millions. The losses threatened the Wilpon-Katz ownership of the team, forcing them to seek loans from Major League Baseball and take on new minority investors, including Cohen and Anthony Scaramucci, the financier who briefly served as communications director for the White House in 2017.