Deal Between Mets-Cohen Is Dead

Billionaire Broke Off Talks To Buy Majority Stake In Team

WFAN.com
February 06, 2020 - 2:57 pm
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Steve Cohen will not return to bargaining table with the Mets.

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The deal that would've made Cohen the majority owner of the club  is dead, according to WFAN baseball insider Jon Heyman. The report indicates the Mets will likely open the sale in the form of an auction. 

Earlier Thursday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn't seem to think a deal between Cohen and the Wilpons was going to occur. 

"My belief is there’s not going to be a transaction," Manfred said at the MLB owners meetings in Orlando, Florida.

Manfred added that he has spoken to the Mets and Cohen on an ongoing basis and "the assertion that the transaction fell apart because of something the Wilpons did is completely and utterly unfair."

That statement will undoubtedly drive a stake through the heart of Mets fans who have been dreaming of a new owner with deep pockets. Cohen, a hedge-fund titan and Mets minority owner who is worth more than $13 billion, had been in talks with the Wilpons' Sterling Equities for months to purchase an 80% share of the team, with the franchise being valued at $2.6 billion. But it was revealed this week that Cohen has broken off talks.

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

The New York Post reported Wednesday night 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 would 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.

Steve Cohen
Getty Images

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. 

The Daily News reported Wednesday night that Cohen was open to resuming talks if the terms were more favorable to him. 

WFAN's Evan Roberts said on the air Thursday that he's 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 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.

The Jeff Wilpon salary issue especially infuriated Cohen, Roberts said. 

"Now my first question when I heard that was: 'Really? That's a couple of million dollars in a billion-dollar deal to buy the New York Mets.' But that really ticked off Steve Cohen,'" Roberts said.

Word of the breakdown in negotiations surfaced Tuesday after Kevin Clancy of Barstool Sports discussed on his podcast rumors he had heard. After reporters questioned the Mets about the talks, the team released a statement saying: "The parties are subject to confidentiality obligations, including a mutual non-disclosure agreement, and therefore cannot comment."

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