NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Major League Baseball owners have approved the sale of the New York Mets to hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen.
The de Blasio administration says it has concluded its legal review of the proposed sale and it can proceed.
The sale from the Wilpon and Katz families values the franchise at between $2.4 billion and $2.45 billion, a record for a baseball team. The sale is likely to close within 10 days.
Within an hour after the announcement, Cohen told Mets employees he’s reinstituting their pre-pandemic salaries, which were cut up to 30% under the Wilpons.
An entity controlled by Cohen will own 95% of the franchise, and the Wilpon and Katz families will retain 5% of the team.
Former Mets general manager Sandy Alderson will return as team president.
“I extend my best wishes to Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and Jeff Wilpon and thank them for their longstanding efforts for the Mets. In particular, we appreciate Fred’s decades of service to league committees and the governance of the game,” Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said. “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Mr. Cohen on receiving approval from the Major League Clubs. Steve will bring his lifelong passion for the Mets to the stewardship of his hometown team, and he will be joined by highly respected baseball leadership as well. I believe that Steve will work hard to deliver a team in which Mets fan can take pride.”
Fred Wilpon released a statement saying in part, “Steve and his family are lifelong Mets fans and we wish them, and our fans, nothing but success on and off the field in the future.”
Statement from Fred Wilpon continued. 2 of 2 pic.twitter.com/zvdH9t9e2w
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 30, 2020
“The New York City Law Department has completed its legal review of the proposed sale of the Mets. New York City does not object to the sale, and the Mets may proceed with the transaction,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
Citi Field is actually on land owned by the city, and the lease agreement prevents the transfer of ownership to a felon, or a person who has controlled a felon.
While Steve Cohen has never been convicted, his former company was found to have engaged in insider trading, and one of his employees was convicted of a felony.
The 64-year-old Cohen is CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management. He first bought an 8% limited partnership stake in 2012 for $40 million.
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 Wilpon controlling 5%.
When Doubleday & Co. was sold to Bertelsmann AG in 1986, the publisher sold its shares of the team for $80.75 million to Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners.
Wilpon completed his buyout of Doubleday in August 2002, ending what had become an acrimonious partnership. Under the original appraisal, Doubleday would have received $137.9 million — half the team’s $391 million value after accounting for debt. Wilpon sued, and the sides then settled.
Cohen controlled SAC Capital Advisors, which in 2013 pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges. SAC agreed to pay a $900 million fine and forfeit another $900 million to the federal government, though $616 million that SAC companies had already agreed to pay to settle parallel actions by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was to be deducted from the $1.8 billion.
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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)