Mets in Talks to Sell 80% of Team to Investor Steve Cohen

Mets in Talks to Sell 80% of Team to Investor Steve Cohen

December 4, 2019

The owners of the New York Mets are in talks to sell up to 80% of the Major League Baseball team to billionaire Steve Cohen, who is already an investor in the club, according to person familiar with the matter.

The transaction would value the team at a baseball-record $2.6 billion, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The Mets confirmed the talks in a statement.

The move would put a sometimes-controversial Wall Street figure in charge of a team that’s long sat in the shadow of the New York Yankees. But the transition will take time.

Fred Wilpon, the team’s principal owner, will remain in his current role for at least five years, at which time Cohen would control the franchise, said the person. Jeff Wilpon, his son, will remain as the team’s chief operating officer for the five-year period, the person said.

Cohen, whose net worth is $9.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, will remain as chief executive officer of Point72 Asset Management, the person said. Cohen didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fred Wilpon is making the move as part of estate and philanthropic planning, the person said. The Wilpons will retain a stake in the franchise they assumed control of in 2002 at a valuation of $391 million.

Fraud Case

Cohen, 63, started his former firm, SAC Capital Advisors, in 1992 and it averaged returns of about 30% annually. But the hedge fund pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 2013 and paid a record fine as part of a U.S. crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street.

Cohen raised $5 billion from outside clients when his family office Point72 Asset Management became a hedge fund last year, saying it was easy to gather money. He said at the time that he took only 10 to 15 meetings, including one overseas trip. Point72 now has about $14.6 billion under management, most of it Cohen’s.

The Mets have made the playoffs just three times since the Wilpons took control, with a losing World Series appearance in 2015.

Once one of baseball’s highest spenders, the Mets went through a period of lean years. Fans attribute that to the owners’ involvement in Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme, which put the team in financial disarray.

The team took $65 million in loans from Major League Baseball and Bank of America Corp., then repaid them after selling a handful of minority stakes in the team. The owners also agreed to pay $162 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the liquidator of Madoff’s firm.

— With assistance by Eben Novy-Williams, and Katherine Burton

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