This morning, I came across the fascinating story of why the Mets pay a long-retired player a little over $1,000,000 every year. This is the tale of Bobby Bonilla, Bernie Madoff and the luckiest baseball contract ever signed. Enjoy your money Bobby, you’ve set yourself and your kids up to have a good life.
When it came time to negotiate with The Mets, Bobby Bonilla was smart enough to secure one of the most forward thinking contracts in sports history. He knew The Mets wanted him gone but technically owed him $5.9 million. He also knew he had a young son and daughter who would be looking to go to college, and as a 36 year old, he likely had many years worth of life to live. So at this point, Bobby and his agents offered a unique compromise: The Mets would release Bobby to play for another team and they would delay the $5.9 million payment for 11 years, with interest. In essence, The Mets agreed to pay Bobby a total of $29.8 million (instead of $5.9 million) in 25 annual installments of $1.192 million, starting in the year 2011.
So why would The Mets agree to this deal?
The Bernie Madoff Connection
In 1986, Real estate developer Fred Wilpon purchased 50% of The New York Mets for an undisclosed sum. He purchased the remaining 50% for $135 million in 2002. Wilpon was also one of the biggest investors in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme hedge fund. Prior to the fund’s December 2008 collapse, Madoff was returning a consistent (and completely fake) double digit rate of return every year.
With those returns in mind, Wilpon knew that The Mets would actually make a huge profit by deferring Bonilla’s $5.9 million. Even though that meant agreeing to pay him more than five times the amount they owed ($29.8 million), Wilpon could safely estimate that the Mets would make $60-70 million off $5.9 million over those 25 years investing with Madoff.
I hope Bonilla sends Madoff a Thank You card every year. This is a fantastic tale that I’d never seen until it was a Facebook trending topic this morning.