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B-Mets in the process of being sold, says lawsuit

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Back in 2011 rumors began circulating that the Binghamton Mets were being sold to an ownership group who would in turn move the team to Ottawa. B-Mets President Mike Urda denied all claims made in the story and as it turned out, the B-Mets would stay in Binghamton. Now, Urda is once again denying claims made in a lawsuit that he agreed to an $8.5 million sale of the Binghamton Mets to Main Street Baseball, LLC. Main Street Baseball holds majority ownership of the Single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks in Wilmington, DE as well as minority stakes in other minor league teams.

In a lawsuit filed with federal courts in Utica, Main Street Baseball is alleging that Urda and the Binghamton Mets Baseball Club entered into a verbal agreement for sale of the team through the B-Mets sale broker Beacon Sports Capital in December of 2014 during the Winter Meetings. The lawsuit is a response to, as Maine Street Baseball says, Urda backing out of the deal and breaking the contract.

In a written statement released to the media on Thursday evening, Urda said the following, in its entirety:

"The Binghamton Mets have been served with what we consider to be a meritless lawsuit by someone who wants to buy and move the team, and the Binghamton Mets are going to vigorously defend that lawsuit. The 2015 season is going forward with a New York Mets Eastern League affiliate operating in Binghamton under the same ownership and the team is looking forward to celebrating the 2014 Eastern League Championship on Opening Night at the Stadium.
Our objective has been and will continue to be offering Binghamton Mets baseball to our community, despite outside interests, which appear to crop up on an annual basis.

To that extent, we are pleased to announce for the first time in our 20 year history, the New York Mets have blessed us with a new four-year PDC extension on top of our existing two-year contract, providing Binghamton with Mets baseball through year 2020. This is an historical achievement in the history of Binghamton Mets Baseball.

Once this lawsuit is resolved we will proceed with our future plans to ensure that the Binghamton Mets and Eastern League Baseball continue in Binghamton."

David Heller, CEO of Main Street Baseball and Clark Minker, the primary plaintiffs in the suit say that they began discussing purchase of a Double-A team with Beacon Sports Capital as early as May 7, 2014. Richard Billings, principal broker at Beacon Sports presented Heller and Minker with a confidentiality agreement in regards to the sale.

In years past, Urda has repeatedly denied any involvement with Beacon Sports Capital.

While Main Street Baseball owns stakes in several minor league teams, the primary objective is to bring Double-A baseball to Wilmington and relocate the Blue Rocks, in other words, should the sale be completed and the lawsuit successful, the B-Mets would be relocated.

The potential sale of the team would need to be approved by Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, including the Eastern League and Carolina League, because of the plans to relocate the B-Mets. The sale is also contingent on the Texas Rangers (parent club of the Blue Rocks) buying the team in order to relocate, all approvals were tentatively received, according to the lawsuit.

The B-Mets, among the bottom of the list in terms of attendance are often the subject of sale and relocation rumors. The Player Development Contract with the New York Mets is set to expire in 2016. PDC's are issued on a two or four year basis, however, as the lawsuit mentions, a four year extension has already been promised to the B-Sens through 2020. Just this past season the organization renewed the lease on NYSEG Stadium with the City of Binghamton for another five years, however, this current lease does not require a team at the Double-A level or higher as previous leases had. This raises many questions regarding the claims made by Urda that the B-Mets have never been up for sale.

The lawsuit alleges that "for at least the past four years, Urda and BMBC have been trying to sell the BMets. On three or four prior occasionsi, Urda and BMBC have gotten very close to consummating a transaction, but each time the prospective buyer backed out, leaving BMBC a frustrated and disappointed seller and Beacon Sports a very motivated broker."

The timeline for the sale laid out in the lawsuit says Billings introduced Heller and Minker to Urda on August 15,2014. During the MiLB winter meetings the two sides verbally agreed and shook on the deal on December 8 with intentions of attorneys drawing up a legally binding letter of intent.

In regards to the letter of intent, the lawsuit says that Urda was pushing for the document to be legally binding "because of Urda's recent, bad experiences where he had thought he had a deal to sell the BMets on prior occasions only to have the prospective buyer drop out." It's then said after the document was filed and executed by January 5, 2015, that Urda began acting nervous only allowing Heller and Minker to visit the stadium after office hours, not allowing them to talk to front office personnel including General Manager Jim Weed, and telling them to lie about who they were if asked.

After agreeing upon an Asset Purchase Agreement and going through several drafts, ultimately on March 11, the lawsuit alleges that Urda called the deal off, as the "No Shopping Period" of the Letter of Intent had expired. Two days later, in a letter from the B-Mets attorney, Heller and Minker say the received an email declaring "our client is ceasing negotiation with your client with respect to the possible sale of the Binghamton Mets" and then allege a day later, the Urda had already entered into an LOI with another party for sale of the team.

No time frame has yet been established for hearing or settlement of the lawsuit.

Fox 40 has placed calls to Main Street Baseball, Beacon Sports Capital, and Jonathan Fellows of Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC in Syracuse. Fellows is the attorney representing the B-Mets, to whom Urda has directed all questions. No calls have yet been returned.

The defending Eastern League Champion B-Mets open the season on April 9th in Akron with the home opener scheduled for April 16th against Harrisburg.

Fox 40 will have more details on this story as they become available.