New York Mets fans may finally be getting their wish.
Sterling Partners, the business of the Wilpon family, is in negotiations to sell 80 percent of the Mets to hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday. The transaction would value the franchise at $2.6 billion, according to Bloomberg.
The team confirmed that negotiations are ongoing and that Fred Wilpon will remain in the role of CEO for five years and Jeff Wilpon will remain as COO for the same amount of time. After those five years are up, Cohen will have a path for taking control of the franchise. The Wilpons would retain some stake in the franchise, according to Bloomberg.
Cohen, who is the CEO of Point72 Asset Management, has a net worth of $9.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The Post’s Joel Sherman reported that there’s long been talk Fred Wilpon’s brother-in-law Saul Katz wanted out of the Mets business and his children did not want to partner with Jeff Wilpon, which would have put a strain on any internal succession plan. This move allows the Wilpons and Katzes to slowly sell to get money and stay in charge a bit longer.
The Mets have long been criticized for an unwillingness to spend the dollars necessary to keep the team competitive, despite being in the New York market.
The team’s finances have been especially scrutinized since the collapse of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme in 2008. Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz had invested money with Madoff. In 2012, they reached a settlement in which they agreed to pay back $162 million in “phantom profits” and recovery trustee Irving Picard dropped his claim that the owners were “willfully blind” to Madoff’s scheme, allowing them to claim millions in losses as victims of the fraud.
In November 2010, MLB loaned the Wilpons $25 million to shore up the team’s finances. The team’s payroll has hovered around $100 million since 2002 when Fred Wilpon took control of the franchise from Nelson Doubleday, with it reaching a high of $176 million in 2017.
Under Wilpon’s control, the Mets have made the postseason three times, including a trip to the 2015 World Series in which they fell to the Royals in five games.
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