Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen completed his $2.4 billion purchase of the New York Mets on Friday, ending the Wilpon family’s control of the franchise after 34 mostly frustrating years.
Cohen became chief executive officer and hired former Mets general manager Sandy Alderson as team president in his first move. The sale ended Jeff Wilpon’s tenure as chief operating officer.
‘This is a significant milestone in the history of this storied franchise,’ Cohen said in a statement. ‘The 2021 season is right around the corner and we’ve got a lot of work to do, so I’m excited to get started.’
Cohen outbid several high-profile investors, including a group led by Alex Rodriguez and his fiancée Jennifer Lopez, as well as Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris.
Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen (above) completed his $2.4 billion purchase of the New York Mets on Friday, ending the Wilpon family’s control of the franchise
New York Mets mascot Mr. Met is seen in a file photo. Cohen became chief executive officer and hired former Mets general manager Sandy Alderson as team president in his first move
The purchase, approved 26-4 by baseball owners on October 30, is worth $2.4 billion to $2.45 billion. It is a record price for a baseball team, topping the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt to Guggenheim Baseball Management in 2012.
An entity controlled by Cohen owns 95 percent of the franchise, and the Wilpon and Katz families retain 5 percent of the team.
Cohen pledged to inject about $9.5 million in additional payments this offseason for pandemic-hit employees.
The 64-year-old Cohen is CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management. He first bought an 8% limited partnership stake in the Mets in 2012 for $40 million.
The publisher Doubleday & Co. bought the Mets on Jan. 24, 1980, from the family of founding owner Joan Payson for $21.1 million, with the company owning 95 percent of the team and Fred Wilpon controlling 5 percent.
When Doubleday & Co. was sold to Bertelsmann AG, the publisher sold its shares of the team on November 14, 1986, for $80.75 million to Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners. That sale happened weeks after the Mets won their second World Series title following the surprise championship by the 1969 Miracle Mets.
The Mets are coming off a disappointing 26-34 season in which they tied for last place in the National League East for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season
Outgoing New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon (left), general manager Brodie Van Wagenen (center), and now-minority owner Fred Wilpon pose for a picture back in October of 2018
Fred Wilpon and his Sterling Equities partners headed by brother-in-law Saul Katz completed his buyout of Doubleday on Aug. 23, 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.
Jeff Wilpon, Fred’s son, became chief operating officer. The Mets failed to win any titles under the Wilpons´ time of sole control and their final dozen years were hampered by financial losses from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
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.
The Long Island native and lifelong Mets fan had long been considered the favorite to buy the team, given his immense wealth, believed to be over $14 billion, according to Forbes, which gave the club a $2.4 billion valuation last year.
The Mets may not have the most successful team, but they do attract major celebrities, like longtime fan Jerry Seinfeld (left) and his former writing partner Larry David (right)
He offered $2.6 billion in late 2019, according to the Post. However that deal fell apart amid reported disagreements over the five-year transfer of the club to Cohen and the future role of Jeff Wilpon, the team’s COO.
Cohen outbid several high-profile investors, like a group led by Alex Rodriguez (left) and his fiancée Jennifer Lopez (right)
During the stalemate, Rodriguez and Lopez quickly added several high-profile investors to their group’s $2 billion offer, including retired NFL legends Brian Urlacher, Joe Thomas, DeMarco Murray, and two-time NBA All-Star Bradley Beal, according to ESPN.
Ultimately Cohen, the CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management, received 8 percent of the team for $40 million.
Cohen is believed to be the basis for actor Damian Lewis’s character on the Showtime series, ‘Billions,’ which focuses on a billionaire’s battles with a federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York.
He’s also one of the world’s most prominent art collectors, having once spent $141.3 million on Alberto Giacometti’s ‘Pointing Man’ sculpture.
Cohen will sit atop the team’s sixth ownership group.
One fan, Doug Bearak, posted a GIF of noted Mets fan Jerry Seinfeld crying tears of joy
Many New York Mets fans see billionaire Steve Cohen as something of a savior
Mike Piazza, one of the club’s most legendary players, was also happy to see the sale approved
The Wilpons have been criticized heavily in recent years, with fans often taking aim at their former financial relationship with convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff, as well as their reluctance to buy highly priced free agents.
Despite fan criticism of Wilpon and the long, difficult sales process, Cohen was complimentary to the family patriarch on Friday.
Some Mets fans have already customized their own Steve Cohen Mets t-shirts
‘I want to thank Fred Wilpon for inviting me to buy into the franchise in 2012,’ Cohen said in a statement. ‘Fred is one of the game’s true gentlemen and I consider it an honor to be the new owner of this iconic franchise.’
Fans have responded to the sale with joy on social media.
One fan, Doug Bearak, posted a GIF of noted Mets fan Jerry Seinfeld crying tears of joy. Another posted a picture of a Jesus-like figure with Cohen’s face walking on water to save a drowning man with the head of team mascot Mr. Met.
Mike Piazza, one of the club’s most legendary players, was also happy to see the sale approved.
‘Very Excited for this next chapter in @Mets history,’ Piazza tweeted. ‘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!’
The Mets are coming off a disappointing 26-34 season in which they tied for last place in the National League East for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.