Billionaire Steve Cohen reached an agreement Monday to take majority ownership of the New York Mets.
The sale is subject to the approval of the Major League Baseball club owners. Once that hurdle is cleared, he’ll assume full control of the franchise. At least 23 of the 30 owners will need to approve the transaction, which was announced by the club via an afternoon news release.
“I am excited to have reached an agreement with the Wilpon and Katz families to purchase the New York Mets,” Cohen said in a statement, after signing the agreement.
After the franchise spoke with several potential suitors, Cohen, a hedge fund manager and native of New York, entered exclusive negotiations to buy the Mets last month. An on-again, off-again discussion with Cohen’s group finally began to pick up steam once and for all on Aug. 28, as both sides hoped to salvage a deal after a previous agreement to buy the team fell apart.
The emergence of Cohen as the winning bidder over a group led by Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez came days before the process was expected to conclude. While the Rodriguez-Lopez consortium said in a statement last month that it had made “a fully funded offer at a record price for the team,” its admission that “they are no longer pursuing the acquisition of the team” confirmed Cohen again had the inside track.
Cohen, 64, previously had come to terms on a deal to buy a controlling share of the Mets at a $2.6 billion valuation. The agreement fell apart amid concerns that Jeff Wilpon, the team’s chief operating officer and the son of majority owner Fred Wilpon, wanted to enforce a clause in the contract that allowed him to remain in his current position for five years rather than treat it as an honorary role.
Mets fans had delighted in the possibility of Cohen, a lifelong fan of the team who stands to become Major League Baseball’s richest owner, taking control of the franchise from the Wilpons, who are widely reviled by the fan base.
Sterling Partners sign agreement with Steve Cohen. #Mets pic.twitter.com/ogzUcLFkeQ
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 14, 2020
They now have their wish, as the sale transfers one of the league’s potential jewel franchises, which has been plagued by mismanagement and a propensity for public embarrassment, into the hands of an owner in far better position to leverage the financial advantage that typically comes with being a team that calls New York City home.
Since 2011, the Mets haven’t carried a payroll in the game’s top 10. Over that juncture, they finished with a winning record only three times and advanced past the wild-card game only once, in 2015, when they lost in the World Series to the Kansas City Royals.