Steve Cohen reaches deal to buy the Mets
Billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen of Greenwich has agreed to buy the New York Mets from the Wilpon and Katz families.
The team announced the agreement on Monday. The deal is subject to the approval of Major League Baseball owners.
“I am excited to have reached an agreement with the Wilpon and Katz families to purchase the New York Mets,” Cohen said in the release.
Cohen will need approval from at least 23 of 30 Major League Baseball owners to complete the deal.
Cohen, 64, is chairman and chief executive officer of Stamford-based Point72 Asset Management. With a reported net worth of about $14 billion, Cohen would be the wealthiest owner in Major League Baseball. Already a minority owner, Cohen made a $2.6 billion bid for controlling interest in the Mets in February before the deal fell apart.
This time, Cohen’s bid was reportedly selected over an offer by a consortium led by former Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez and actress Jennifer Lopez. Josh Harris and David Blitzer, owners of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, were also bidding.
Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo, a huge baseball fan, was among those celebrating the news on Monday. Though a lifelong fan of the Yankees, Camillo said Cohen owning the Mets would not only benefit the team and their fans, but baseball as a whole given his ability to spend on top free agents and develop a winning franchise.
“For baseball in New York, going back to when there were three great teams here, it’s always better when you have two good teams,” Camillo said. “A rivalry can thrive when you have that and it’s good for the area. It’s good for baseball and good for both teams’ fanbases. It makes things more exciting.”
The Yankees have long been criticized for their high payroll ways, including being dubbed the “Evil Empire” by the fellow high-spending Boston Red Sox. But the Mets have often lagged behind the Yankees and Camillo said he was looking forward to seeing both franchises on an even field with Cohen’s ability to invest in the product on the field.
“Look at the Yankees and Red Sox, when one’s doing well and the other’s not it’s still a rivalry for the fans but it loses a little bit of that feel,” Camillo said. “It’s the same thing here. When both the Mets and Yankees are good it only adds to the rivalry and I think the Cohens will put their heart and soul into building the Mets up. They have some good young players there.”
Fred Wilpon has owned a stake of the Mets since 1980, becoming majority owner in 2002. His son Jeff, also a Greenwich resident, currently serves as the team’s chief operating officer.
The deal would raise the value of Major League Baseball franchises in general, but Cohen doesn’t come to the table without some controversy.
While locally Cohen, who is an influential Republican political donor, is celebrated for his philanthropy, his hedge funds — formerly SAC Capital and currently Point72 Asset Management located in the Waterside neighborhood of Stamford — have been the source of some trouble in recent years.
In 2012, SAC Capital was the focus of a Security and Exchange Commission investigation into insider trading. Cohen wasn’t indicted in the probe, but other SAC employees were. In total, SAC Capital Advisors paid a record-setting $1.8 billion in fines. More recently, Point72 Assets has faced multiple discrimination complaints from female employees. Cohen, again, was not personally implicated.
In Greenwich and Stamford, the Cohens are known for sizable contributions to entities including the Bruce Museum and the Mill River Park Collaborative — the nonprofit that recreated Stamford’s central park in the past decade.
The publisher Doubleday & Co. bought the Mets in 1980 from the family of founding owner Joan Payson for $21.1 million, with the company owning 95% of the team and Fred Wilpon controlling 5%.
When Doubleday & Co. was sold to the media company Bertelsmann AG in 1986, the publisher sold its shares of the team for nearly $81 million to Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners.
Wilpon led a buyout of Doubleday’s shares in 2002 and became chairman and sole controlling owner. Katz, the owner’s brother-in-law and partner in the real estate firm Sterling Equities Inc., became team president and Jeff Wilpon became COO.
Kenneth Borsuk and The Associated Press contributed to this report.