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Volume 26 No. 206
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Source: Wilpons Agree To Sell Up To 80% Of Mets To Steve Cohen

Jeff Wilpon will remain in his COO role for the duration of the five-year transition period
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Jeff Wilpon will remain in his COO role for the duration of the five-year transition period
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Jeff Wilpon will remain in his COO role for the duration of the five-year transition period
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Wilpon family is "in talks to sell up to an 80% stake" in the Mets to billionaire and team investor Steve Cohen, in a transaction that would "value the team at a baseball-record" of $2.6B, according to a source cited by Scott Soshnick of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Cohen's "deep pockets may give hope to long-suffering" Mets fans, but the transition "will take time." The source said that Mets Control Person & CEO Fred Wilpon will "remain in his current role for at least five years, at which time Cohen would control the franchise." The source added that Mets COO Jeff Wilpon also will remain in his role for the "five-year period." The source said that in the meantime, Cohen will remain CEO of his Point72 Asset Management hedge fund. Soshnick noted bringing Cohen on as the majority owner "may signal a turning point in how the franchise spends." The Mets' payroll in '19 was $160M, 10th in MLB (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/4).

TURNING THINGS AROUND: In N.Y., Draper, Flitter, Allentuck & Kelly write this would "represent a huge change in the landscape of New York sports and for a beloved, if often troubled, franchise." Cohen is "unlikely to remain quiet during any interim period before he takes control of the team." A source said that the Mets have "lost tens of millions of dollars in recent years" as the team has "struggled to attract fans to a team that often fell out of the playoff race in midseason" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/5). The AP's Ronald Blum noted Cohen first bought into the Mets in '12, when the team sought $20M minority investment stakes "following the collapse of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which cost the Wilpons and their companies large amounts" (AP, 12/4).

STRATEGIC SHIFT: THE ATHLETIC's Britton & Carig note though this plan "presents an exit strategy for the Wilpons, the immediate impact on payroll and the franchise's direction remains unclear." It would not be "unprecedented for a transfer of power to take place sooner." Once Cohen "takes control" in five years' time, it is "unknown how much of a stake the Wilpons would retain in the franchise and in their regional sports network, SNY, if any" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/4). In N.Y., Thornton McEnery writes it is "unclear if Cohen is as interested in spending as much money on the bullpen as he is on sculptures and real estate." But fans who have been "frustrated with what they see as the Wilpons' tight-fisted ways say they're hopeful Cohen will share his massive wealth with the team" (N.Y. POST, 12/5). CNBC's David Faber said "we've talked often through the years about the Wilpons ... and how willing they have been to spend money." Although to "be fair to them, they have spent plenty, not necessarily always in the right places" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 12/5). In N.Y., Deesha Thosar cited a source as saying that Cohen is a "mover and a shaker." He has "a lot of influence and is expected to shake up the Mets' current financial structure" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/5).

BIG SPENDER? In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes he who "controls the purse strings controls the kingdom," and if Cohen is approved by the other MLB owners, he "will control the purse strings." The expectation now is that the Mets "will join the Yankees and Dodgers and Red Sox among the major league payroll leaders," perhaps not in '20, "but soon." Cohen is "overpaying for the Mets because he loves baseball and this team." A source said the five-year period until Cohen takes full control of the team is the "maximum and that it could be less -- that if Cohen were going to spend this much he was going to want to run the team sooner than later." Another source said that because it will be "Cohen's money now that is most in play, he will have, at minimum, veto power and more likely control over the direction the Mets take" (N.Y. POST, 12/5). On Long Island, David Lennon writes fans can "imagine a day when money isn't a concern for the Mets." Lennon: "That day isn't here yet. But it's coming. Oh yes. Finally, it's coming" (NEWSDAY, 12/5).

FOR THE FANS: YAHOO SPORTS' Matt Ehalt wrote Mets fans can "dream of a future in which there will be less talk about being creative in the offseason and more talk of how to land" top free agents (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/4). In New Jersey, Brian Fonseca writes Mets fans might be "getting what they've wanted for a long time within the next five years." The news of Cohen's investment "sets a hard timeline on an exit for the Wilpons, a duo who have been on the bad side of Mets fans for much of their ownership" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 12/5). ESPN’s Radio’s Trey Wingo: “This is a move Mets would welcome with open arms” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPNews, 12/5). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes it is taking some time for the news to "sink in for Mets fans," but the "beginning of the end is nigh." It is "impossible to know" if Cohen will be a "great owner, a bad owner, or something in between." But at this point, his "biggest asset is that he isn't part of the Mets' old guard." Vaccaro: "A new day. A new time. Fresh blood. And, most importantly, a bountiful supply of cash" (N.Y. POST, 12/5).