Steve Cohen has made nice with the Wilpons, and as a single buyer worth $14 billion waving cash at the debt-ridden team – a deal could be imminent.
Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is back in it, and this time he is nearly assured to be the buyer of the New York Mets.
Cohen, who already owns 8% of the team, was a severe bidder back in January when Fred Wilpon finally gave in to constant pleas from fans and media to please – pretty please – sell the Mets.
But as these things typically go, the timing wasn’t quite right, and both sides had misgivings at the last moment, squashing the $2.6 billion offer.
From Fred Wilpon came the feeling he was just kicking tires and looking to test the market, while Cohen didn’t hit it off with Jeff, especially when he learned Jeffie would “run” the Mets for the next five years.
That Was Then – This Is Now
When the deal fell through, everyone moved on. Corona was a word only recognized as a neighborhood in Queens, not far from the Mets home at Citi Field, or the excellent tasting beer from Mexico.
Fred Wilpon had the Mets on a tenuous financial ground since his involvement with Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and the ensuing fines levied by the federal government.
When COVID-19 hit heavily in March, causing the 2020 MLB season to be halted, the proverbial chickens came home to roost on Fred Wilpon.
Most teams had cash reserves to draw on, or at least good relationships with local banks willing to issue short-term loans to cover the team’s loss of revenue. Wilpon, however, was a solo captain on a sinking ship.
Steve Cohen: Perched To Swoop In
Fred Wilpon’s predicament was not a closely held secret. News quickly spread about a $450 million loan that was coming due on July 1. By the end of the year, he also was expected to pay $45 million for Citi Field’s debt.
Where was this money going to come from? Saul Katz, Wilpon’s lifelong investment partner, wanted nothing to do with increasing his interest in the team, and his family’s trust in Jeff Wilpon to run the Mets organization was waning at a rapid rate.
Steve Cohen waited and watched while some heavy hitters made known their interest in buying the Mets.
This, while Jeff Wilpon issued sound bites, the team will be sold by October, with a finalized and MLB approved deal by the new year.
The most noted of the bidding and star-gazing headlines came from the team of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez.
But as with all the other bidders, and since no one “team” had the money to buy the Mets, multiple investors had to be located and cemented as a consortium to buy the team..
That process was time-intensive and is still going on today.
Steve Cohen watched and waited.
Steve Cohen Is A One-Man Show – Right Up Fred Wilpon’s Alley
Pure logic dictates the ease of a team sale going through with a one-person buyer, as opposed to the intricacies of a team of buyers.
To where there are questions like who’s putting up what and when – and I want this clause in there instead of yours – and why can’t “we” do it this way…
Steve Cohen is a one-person show. His bank accounts say he can buy the Mets outright tomorrow, and still have $12 billion to play with to buy the other toys for which he also seems to have a liking.
Indeed, if Fred Wilpon wants to sell the Mets, Steve Cohen is the quickest way to get there, albeit with a reduced selling price of $2 billion.
Can Steve Cohen Pass MLB’s Litmus Test?
Another reason to wrap up the sale is the need for Major League Baseball to put their stamp of approval on Steve Cohen as a person “fit” to own an MLB franchise.
Typically, the process does not mean a rubber stamp. And most likely, Cohen will be forced to relive and justify his innocence against claims made by U.S. attorneys from the Southern District of New York.
These are the same prosecutors who currently are seeking the tax records of Donald Trump. That case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
More than 5,000 words are there for you to read and digest in an exhaustive article that appeared in the New Yorker in 2017. The report covers a ten-year period in which Cohen was haunted by what was a logical assumption.
How can one man, especially someone operating in the unknowns of hedge funds, make that much money – cleanly?
Yet nothing definitively proved that Cohen knowingly traded on inside information.
Still, MLB will need time to do their due diligence before the actual transfer is completed.
Mets Fans: “Anybody But Wilpon” – Will It Work?
There will be dancing in the streets in Queens and outside Citi Field when the Wilpons finally complete the sale.
Penny-pinching, dysfunction, ill-advised hiring, and firing of team personnel, all of it will be ended. Will it?
Who is Steve Cohen, other than a blustery 5’9″ salesman who has made a fortune over his 64 years on this planet?
He has all the makings of “The Boss” – as in George Steinbrenner, former owner and micro-manager of the New York Yankees.
For Steinbrenner, the Yankees were never a sideline business to his shipbuilding enterprise.
They were an obsession, banked solely on winning, no matter what the cost, even if it meant digging into his own pockets to sign the likes of Reggie Jackson and CC Sabathia when titles were within reach.
Some Mets fans, including this writer, will jump at the chance to have Steve Cohen supplying the long-absent “caring” part of owning a team in the big leagues.
Major League Baseball will weigh that element too when they take a closer look at Steve Cohen.
In the end, we only know what we know – which isn’t much except that he has heaps of money.
Not that we (fans) have a say in the matter, let’s hope MLB and investigative reporting digs deep into Steve Cohen and his view of the Mets before granting him the privilege of owning a team in the (still) capital of baseball – New York City.