No joke: Bill Maher owns a stake in the New York Mets.
The stand-up comic and political satirist was at Citi Field on Sunday and revealed that he bought a minority share of the team months ago. Mets senior vice president of marketing and communications David Newman confirmed the deal is done and that Maher is a new limited partner.
"That's what's great about baseball," Maher said. "I finally found something I can be a-political about."
Maher, who grew up nearby in New Jersey and said he has been a Mets fan his whole life, would not disclose how much he spent or how large a stake he owns.
The Mets' owners sought to raise cash after they were sued by the trustee seeking to recover money for victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn agreed in May 2011 to purchase a minority stake in the team for $200 million, but the Mets said Sept. 1 they were calling off that deal and instead wanted to sell limited partner shares for $20 million each.
Maher said he read about the opportunity in the newspaper in December and thought it would be a great investment.
"Especially after I've seen some of the ways money can disappear in recent years. I had my money in Lehman Brothers in 2008, so this looked pretty good," Maher said, drawing laughs. "I'm really happy that it's turned out that this team is good this year, because nobody picked them to be good."
In March, Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz reached an agreement with the trustee for Madoff's fraud victims, averting a high-profile civil trial. The settlement makes it likely that Wilpon and Katz will pay much less than the agreed-upon $162 million, if any at all. It also guarantees they will owe nothing until the end of four years.
That same day, a person familiar with the team's finances said the Mets had closed on the sales of 12 limited partner shares for $20 million each. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity at that time because no public statement was authorized.
It was unclear if Maher was among that original group of 12 shares — five of which were bought by newcomers and the rest by the current ownership group and its partners in the SNY cable network.
Maher wore a Mets cap as he strolled onto the field during batting practice with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. The talk-show host said it was the first time he had been in New York since the deal was completed.
Outside the Mets' clubhouse, Maher shook hands and chatted with outfielder Mike Baxter, injured Friday night while making an outstanding catch that preserved Johan Santana's no-hitter.
"I've never been back here — it's awesome. I've never been by a batting cage, really," Maher said.
He added that it was his first trip to Citi Field and the first time he had met Fred Wilpon, Jeff's father.
"I definitely want to come back for the All-Star game" next year,' Maher said.
Does he plan to be a hands-on owner?
"Look, I have enough stress in my real job. I don't need to worry about that. I'm just a fan," Maher said with a chuckle. "I think my role is to bring luck to the team, like I did this weekend. I mean, let's be honest: They did not have a no-hitter for 50 years, I buy in and I come to town and there's a no-hitter. Draw your own conclusions."
Maher said he has early memories of New York being granted a National League expansion franchise, and the team's first season in 1962. He said he vividly remembers the Miracle Mets championship of 1969, and watching Game 6 of the 1986 World Series at The Improv in Los Angeles with fellow comedian Jerry Seinfeld and others.
Asked if he will try to persuade Seinfeld, a longtime Mets fan, to buy a share as well, Maher said: "Why he didn't, I have no idea. He's sure got more money than I do."
Maher hosts an HBO talk show called "Real Time With Bill Maher."
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