Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is in the process of buying up to an 80% stake in the New York Mets in a deal that would value the MLB franchise at $2.6 billion, two sources familiar with the talks have confirmed to Forbes.
The Mets are currently principally owned by Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz through Sterling Partners. According a team press release, should the deal be consummated, Fred and his son, Jeff, will continue to run the MLB franchise for the next five years.
The $2.6 billion price tag is plausible—we valued the Mets at $2.3 billion earlier this year—but I do not believe for a second that the Wilpons will be running the team for a nanosecond if the transaction is approved by MLB.
According to my sources, Cohen, who is currently a minority owner of the Mets, would immediately own at least a tad over 50% should the deal be approved. Why would anybody buying a majority stake in a dysfunctional business allow the folks who ran it dysfunctionally for years keep running it? Time is of the essence.
Oh, I’m sure you’ll still see the Wilpons around Citi Field, in their suite and in their executive offices. But calling the shots? No way. The Mets badly need to boost attendance and revenue at Citi Field and make hefty debt payments on their ballpark. They also have a lot of debt on their regional sports network as an indirect result of the Bernie Madoff debacle.
Cohen isn’t going to pay more than $2 billion to sit on his hands for five years and potentially watch things get worse.