Mets Confirm Cohen Deal Off, Looking For New Buyer

Talks With Billionaire Officially Dead

Ryan Chatelain
February 07, 2020 - 6:19 am
Fred Wilpon, left, and Jeff Wilpon

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The Mets confirmed Thursday night that talks with billionaire hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen to buy a majority stake in the team are dead, but added the club is still for sale.

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“The transaction between Sterling and Steve Cohen was a highly complicated one,” Sterling Partners, which owns the Mets, said in a statement. “Despite the efforts of the parties over the past several months, it became apparent that the transaction as contemplated would have been too difficult to execute. Sterling intends now to pursue a new transaction and has engaged Allen & Company to manage that process.”

Cohen, a minority owner of the team, had been in talks with the Wilpons' Sterling Equities for months to purchase an 80% share of the Mets, with the franchise being valued at $2.6 billion. But it was revealed this week that Cohen had broken off talks.

Cohen released his own statement, telling fans, "I gave it my best shot."

“I’m very disappointed we couldn’t work out a deal,” he said. “But as an 8% holder I’m looking forward to a higher bid for the team.

“I want to thank the fans for their support and the respect they showed me and I want to thank Commissioner (Rob) Manfred and MLB for their support through the process."

A major sticking point was apparently about team control, although there are conflicting reports about the details.

Steve Cohen
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The New York Post reported Wednesday that Cohen wanted to receive increasing control in the Mets' decisions on buying talent and hiring executives as he paid off the purchase in installments over five years. Recently, however, the Wilpons made it clear they wanted to retain complete control through the five years, which upset Cohen, the report said.

It's not clear if the disagreement was a result of miscommunication or a late change to the terms of the original deal, the Post reported.

The Daily News' version of the story, however, was a bit different. It reported that ownership indeed made a last-minute change by demanding that Fred Wilpon would remain chief executive officer and his son, Jeff, would remain chief operating officer beyond five years. The Wilpons also want to extend their control of the SNY television network for longer than the 20-year rights deal, the newspaper reported. 

WFAN's Evan Roberts said on the air Thursday that he heard from a source there were a few issues in Cohen's eyes:

• The five-year waiting period before he could take control of the team

• Fred Wilpon's demand that Jeff Wilpon's salary as COO increase from about $2.5 million now to around $4 million by Year 5

• The Wilpons' refusal to allow Cohen to incorporate his own analytics department immediately, as the current owners believed the changes were too much, too soon.