Steve Cohen Confirms Mets Deal Is Off; Team Still Looking To Sell
Billionaire Steve Cohen confirmed that the deal for him to buy an 80%, majority stake in the Mets is "dead," according to Draper & Wagner of the N.Y. TIMES. Cohen said, "I'm very disappointed we couldn't work out a deal. I gave it my best shot." Mets ownership group Sterling Partners in a statement said that it "became clear the deal 'would have been too difficult to execute,'" and that it "intends now to pursue a new transaction." The Mets and Cohen in December announced that they were "negotiating a deal in which Cohen, who currently has an 8 percent stake in the team, would become the majority owner." The deal included an "unusual provision" allowing Mets Control Person & CEO Fred Wilpon and COO Jeff Wilpon to "remain in their roles for five years after the completion of the sale." Sources said that it was that provision that "largely resulted in the talks falling apart." MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Thursday "pushed back" on reports that "blamed the Wilpons for the failing negotiations." Manfred said, "The assertion that the transaction fell apart because of something that the Wilpons did is completely and utterly unfair." Sources said that the potential sale to Cohen was "driven by family members who are wary of having Jeff Wilpon in charge of such a valuable asset." The family would "rather take the huge profit from a sale" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). Sterling Partners said that it is "working with Allen & Company, a Manhattan-based boutique investment bank, to find suitors" (NEWSDAY, 2/7).
ROLE PLAY: In N.Y., Thornton McEnery cites sources as saying that the "biggest unsolvable issue in the now all-but-dead sale" was the role that Jeff Wilpon "would have in the transition of power and beyond." At the late stages of Cohen's deal to buy 80% of the Mets for $2.6B, he was "informed by Fred and Jeff Wilpon that their plan was for Jeff to maintain total operational control of the Mets throughout the pre-agreed-to five-year transition period and then maintain a senior role within the organization even after Cohen took over." It is "unclear" if the Wilpons "sought to keep the COO title for Jeff after the transition." But sources "uniformly agree Jeff wanted to be part of the decision-making under Cohen's ownership" (N.Y. POST, 2/7).
LIMIT THE DISTRACTION: In N.Y., Deesha Thosar writes it was "wise of the Wilpons to put out a statement and settle the rumors swarming around Cohen and his abandoned bid" to buy the Mets. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in a few days, the players "hardly needed another distraction hovering over them." If ownership can "hold off on prematurely announcing a new majority owner before the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed, it could save the fan base from suffering another emotional rollercoaster" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).
STILL A WEAK PULSE: In N.Y., Ken Davidoff writes if another potential buyer as "prominent and as loaded as Cohen exists, that person flies successfully under the radar." That is "why you still can't wholly rule out a reconciliation with Cohen, as much of a long shot as it currently appears" (N.Y. POST, 2/7).