Mets, Cohen Reach Deal; Minority Owners Expected To Be Bought Out
Steve Cohen is expected to own 95% of the Mets after reaching a deal yesterday to buy the team, while the Wilpon family will be "retaining 5 percent," according to Joel Sherman of the N.Y. POST. A call is scheduled for Thursday with the Mets' current minority owners, and they are "assuming they are being bought out." Cohen's deal for the team is expected to be $2.4-2.45B, the "highest price ever paid for a North American sports team." Sources said that the deal "does not include the Mets television network, SNY." The "next hurdles for Cohen are for him to be vetted by an ownership subcommittee that will then make a recommendation to the larger group whether to accept Cohen into their club." A vote of all owners is "expected to come before November" to determine if Cohen will succeed Mets Control Person & CEO Fred Wilpon and President and co-Owner Saul Katz and "become the fourth controlling owner since the franchise's inception in 1962." Sources said that the Alex Rodriguez group requested "exclusive negotiating rights in the days leading up to Aug. 31 or it would drop out, which it did." The sources said that the firm running the auction, Allen and Co., "became concerned that the A-Rod group would make that decision public and that would move Cohen to lower his bid." So, the Wilpons and Katz "pivoted to Cohen and agreed to enter into exclusive negotiations with him" (N.Y. POST, 9/15).
EXPECTED TO PASS, BUT NO CERTAINTY: SNY’s Andy Martino reported MLB ownership approving Cohen is "not a slam dunk," though it is "expected." There will be "some politicking involved in this." Martino: "That’s Rob Manfred’s job as sort of a Senate Majority Leader type of position. He has to whip those votes together and get this sale going.” The financial incentive for the other owners "is strong because they want franchise values to continue to rise." Cohen had the resources "to make a very aggressive bid for the Mets, and that’s why it’s expected to go through” ("SportsNite," SNY, 9/15).
THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM: In N.Y., Dennis Young notes this is the "second time that a Cohen-Mets sale has been officially announced, and the third time that Cohen has tried to buy the team." A deal announced in December '19 "fell through in February." Young: "Incredibly, the coronavirus pandemic only put a tiny dent in what Cohen was willing to pay for the Mets." The '19 deal valued the Mets at $2.6B, "just a hair more than the new deal" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/15). On Long Island, Tim Healey writes if and when Cohen is approved, he "would become the Mets' 'control person,' which is baseball's term for a franchise’s majority owner and top decision-maker." He "would be the richest owner in the sport," with a net worth of an estimated $13B. A source said that while Wilpon for the time being "officially remains in charge, Cohen is allowed to 'consult' on organizational decision-making." MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "welcomed a Mets sale." Manfred: "It's important for us to be strong in our major markets. 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." Meanwhile, a source said that Wilpon and Katz -- brothers-in-law both in their early 80s -- "decided to sell the Mets as part of their estate planning, something Wilpon wanted to do while he was alive as opposed to leaving it to the next generations" (NEWSDAY, 9/15).
BEACON OF HOPE: In N.Y., Mark Fischer notes Cohen's deal to purchase the Mets in February fell apart after the two sides "couldn't agree how much influence the Wilpon family would be able to wield in the first five years of Cohen's ownership." Cohen "reemerged this spring in the sale process." Mets fans "seemed to always hope" Cohen "would end up the winner of an auction, enamored with the possibility of him spending more money than they've grown accustomed to and ending years of front-office dysfunction" (N.Y. POST, 9/15). ESPN's Jeff Passan noted this could be a “landscape shifting deal," as Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer is the only team owner in pro sports who "has a higher net worth” than Cohen. The Mets “could turn into the financial powerhouse” that the Yankees and Dodgers “have been with this deal." Passan: "Considering all of the financial difficulties that the Wilpon family has had over the last few years and then the fall-out of the Ponzi scheme with Bernie Madoff where they had so much of their money, this is a godsend to New York Mets fans” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/14). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes nobody "likes being a kid brother in sports." The Mets "have been the kid brother for more than a generation, and acted the part." Vaccaro: "Not anymore. Not with Cohen. And that is what enlivens Mets fans' spirit now" (N.Y. POST, 9/15).
UPS AND DOWNS: In N.Y., David Waldstein notes Fred Wilpon "gained ownership of half of the team" in '86, and then "assumed full control when he bought Nelson Doubleday's half" in '02 for $135M. All told, the Wilpon family "has been part of the primary ownership group of the Mets for more than half of the club's 59-season history." It was a "bumpy tenure, to be sure." There "were successes, like when the Mets reached the World Series" in '00 and '15, and they also "designed and built Citi Field." But in the 18 years since the Wilpon family gained full ownership, the Mets "only reached the postseason three times and seemed to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding, often with limited financial resources." At times the Mets "were among the biggest spenders in baseball, but at other points fans complained they were financially constrained" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/15).
ABOUT TIME: On Long Island, Anthony Rieber writes the Wilpons "were bad owners." All Mets fans "should rejoice today." Cohen "could end up being a great owner." Rieber: "Or a mediocre owner. Or a bad owner. There's no way to know yet. But the Wilpon era is finally coming to a close" (NEWSDAY, 9/15). THE ATHLETIC's Marc Carig writes, "By now, the legacy of the Wilpons is set. They proved themselves to be meddlers and micromanagers, with a style that has been reduced to a hash tag: #LOLMets." Carig: "The positives of the Wilpons have been far outweighed by the negatives. There have been too many too many dumb controversies to count" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/15). In N.Y., Bradford William Davis writes no matter what Cohen does, he is "certain to be at least a marginal improvement" over the Wilpons. The Mets do not "need to reinvent the wheel." They play in the "largest media market in the country." The team "has been in an 18-year tunnel, but all tunnels end" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/15).