NEW YORK — Here he is. The incomparable, invincible, unbeatable Steve Cohen is finally the new principal owner of the New York Mets.
The hedge-find titan was approved by Major League Baseball’s owners Friday afternoon to take over the franchise from Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz. The $2.4 billion deal is the highest price ever paid for a North American sports team. Cohen, who has an estimated net worth of $14 billion, is now baseball’s wealthiest owner.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed off on the transaction immediately after MLB owners casted their “yes” votes. In a statement, MLB said the approval is contingent upon the closing of the sale transaction with the Wilpons, which is expected within the next 10 days.
“The New York City Law Department has completed its legal review of the proposed sale of the @Mets,” de Blasio announced on Twitter. “New York City has no objections and the Mets can now proceed with the transaction. #LGM”
The Wilpons end a decades-long run as Mets owners tainted by few highs and too-many-to-count lows. Fred Wilpon first bought a 5% stake in the franchise in 1980. He purchased partner Nelson Doubleday’s remaining 50% stake in the club in 2002 and became the team’s sole owner. Fred’s son, Jeff Wilpon, was named COO of the Mets in Aug. 2002 and handled the bulk of baseball operations in recent years. Friday marked the culmination of the Wilpons’ 40-year tenure of ownership in the Mets.
“I am humbled that MLB’s owners have approved me to be the next owner of the New York Mets,” Cohen said in a statement. “Owning a team is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility. I would like to thank the owners and Commissioner Manfred and his team for welcoming me to Major League Baseball. And I want to thank Fred Wilpon for inviting me to buy into the franchise in 2012. Fred is one of the game’s true gentlemen and I consider it an honor to be the new owner of this iconic franchise.
“Most of all, I’d like to thank Mets fans for their unwavering support throughout this process,” Cohen continued. “My family and I are lifelong Mets fans, so we’re really excited about this. With free agency starting Sunday night we will be working towards a quick close. Let’s go Mets!”
The 64-year-old Cohen first began his pursuit of owning the franchise 11 months ago. His original deal with Sterling Equities, the group headed by chairman and co-founder Fred Wilpon, was announced on Dec. 4, 2019 and collapsed just two months later over disagreements and complications regarding Fred and Jeff Wilpon’s continued involvement. Under the current deal, the Wilpons own a 5% stake in the Mets and will be removed from day-to-day operations.
Cohen announced last month he plans to hire former Mets GM Sandy Alderson as team president under the new regime. Alderson’s progressive baseball mentality is expected to blend well with Cohen’s deep pockets and analytics-based outlook for the team.
Legendary Mets captain Mike Piazza also endorsed the new Mets principal owner.
“Very Excited for this next chapter in @Mets history,” Piazza wrote in a tweet. “This is a special day for all of us. Looking forward to the future with pride and optimism. Mr. Cohen, you have my full support and gratitude. Looking forward to seeing you all at @CitiField next year!#LGM”
Alas, this wouldn’t be a Mets deal without a late-inning wrinkle in the process.
Though Cohen now officially owns a 95% stake in the franchise and is the control person of the Mets, the deal was not closed until de Blasio signed over the Citi Field lease. The New York City mayor stalled in his role, which involved a formal approval of a lease transfer from the Wilpons to Cohen.
Citi Field and the land it occupies is owned in part by the metropolis, which gave de Blasio an opening to insert himself as the political antihero of the Mets sale. The mayor has already grabbed our tabloid’s back pages and received the attention he craves. Perhaps, if he was bored, that would be all fine and well. De Blasio has larger, more serious matters to attend — like handling the challenges of a surging coronavirus pandemic. It seemed, however, the Mets sale was where he would rather dirty his hands.
The mayor dragged his feet by focusing on language in the lease that would allow him to block the Mets sale if Cohen was a “prohibited person” who has been “convicted in a criminal proceeding for a felony.”
Technically, Cohen has never been charged with a crime. His former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, pled guilty to insider trader charges and paid a record $1.8 billion fine. He was banned from managing outside money for two years following a civil suit with the SEC. Cohen currently controls the investment firm Point72 Asset Management.
Cohen, a Great Neck, N.Y., native and lifelong Mets fan, can now get to work on his new team.
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