Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is in talks to increase his investment in the New York Mets and potentially take an 80 percent stake in the Major League Baseball team.
The planned transaction would value the franchise at an MLB record $2.6bn, according to Bloomberg, and would appear to end by 2025 Fred Wilpon’s majority ownership in the Mets that dates to 2002.
“The [current ownership group] Sterling Partners and Steve Cohen are negotiating an agreement in which Steve Cohen would increase his investment in the New York Mets,” the companies said in a statement.
Under the proposed deal, Wilpon, the chairman and co-founder of investment firm Sterling, will remain chief executive of the Mets for five years and his son Jeff Wilpon will remain as chief operational officer for the same amount of time. The Wilpons will also retain a minority stake in the team.
Sterling sold a series of minority stakes in the team in 2012 – including a four percent stake to Cohen worth $20m – to raise cash to offset major losses suffered from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme over a decade ago. It has quietly bought many of them back in recent years.
But now Sterling is looking to sell the vast majority of its stake in the Mets, in part, it is believed, due to the heavy costs of building the NHL New York Islanders’ new Belmont Park Arena, which is part of a $1.26bn project.
Cohen carries an estimated net worth of $9.2bn, which would make him the richest MLB team owner. He is the chief executive and president of Point72 Asset Management.
The Wilpons have long been criticized by Mets fans for their unwillingness to spend the requisite funds to keep the team competitive, despite being in the New York media market that is the largest in the US. The Mets won the National League pennant in 2015 and had a winning season in 2019. But the club has posted eight losing seasons since 2009.