Mets agree to sell to Steve Cohen; MLB owners’ approval all that remains
The Mets announced Monday that their parent company, Sterling Equities, has reached a purchase agreement with minority shareholder Steve Cohen that would make Cohen the club’s majority owner.
Financial terms were not disclosed. Published reports have put the purchase price at about $ 2.3 billion.
The sale is subject to approval by the other 29 MLB team owners; 23 votes in favor are needed. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday night that the approval process will begin “shortly,” while MLB.com reported the vote would take place no later than November at the league’s owners meetings.
MORE: Wilpons side with Manfred after Mets GM rips commissioner
“I am excited to have reached an agreement with the Wilpon and Katz families to purchase the New York Mets,” Cohen said in the team’s statement. Sterling Equities is led by Mets CEO Fred Wilpon and team president Saul Katz.
Cohen is seeking to buy 80 percent of the team to add to his reported 8 percent stake. The Wilpon family reportedly would retain a 5 percent stake in the club and ownership of SNY, the team’s regional cable network. Cohen, 64, was close to completing a deal last February before negotiations broke down. There were reports he balked at team COO Jeff Wilpon remaining in charge of the club during a five-year ownership transition period.
This time, Cohen outbid multiple suitors for the franchise — most notably a partnership led by the celebrity couple of former MLB star Alex Rodriguez and musical superstar Jennifer Lopez, who have continued to fight for an opportunity to negotiate. A group that included owners of the NBA’s 76ers and NHL’s Devils also tried to buy the team.
The Wilpon family is close friends with Manfred, so an official announcement would seem to indicate the MLB office is on board with Cohen taking over. Some owners reportedly had misgivings about him. Cohen’s hedge fund, S.A.C. Capital Advisors, pleaded guilty in 2013 to insider trading and agreed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to pay $ 1.8 billion in fines and forfeitures. The New York Times reported the fund was closed in 2014.
In 2018, Cohen’s investment firm, Point72 Asset Management, was sued for discrimination against women. The plaintiff, company executive Lauren Bonner, also claimed a hostile work environment. Point72 denied the allegations.
Manfred did not refer to Cohen specifically in comments Monday night but sounded supportive of the agreement.
“(M)ajor markets generally have an outsized effect on the economics of the game, and I think it’s important for us to be strong in our major markets,” he said at an event hosted by Hofstra University’s business school on Long Island, per Evan Drellich of The Athletic. “I think that a change in ownership at the Mets is an opportunity to make that franchise as strong as it can possibly be, and I think over the long haul it’ll be something that will be good for the game.”
The Mets reportedly have been losing tens of millions of dollars a year after landing in dire financial straits following the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal. The Wilpons and Katz invested millions with Madoff.
Fred Wilpon has held an ownership stake in the club since 1980. He gained full ownership in 2002 when he bought out partner Nelson Doubleday’s 50 percent share.
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