Report: Sports Bankers, Lawyers Not Counting Out Cohen In Mets Bidding

SNY Now Also Said To Be Available

Ryan Chatelain
February 19, 2020 - 11:30 am

Is the possibility of Steve Cohen emerging as the majority owner of the Mets truly dead? 

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Sports bankers and lawyers who have been in touch with prospective bidders for the franchise have expressed concern to The Athletic that the hedge-fund billionaire could still try to swoop in to buy the team.

Cohen's talks to purchase a large stake in the Mets for a reported $2.6 billion collapsed earlier this month. There were reportedly a number of issues between the two sides, but the biggest sticking point seemed to be Cohen's reluctance to give the Wilpons full control of the franchise for another five years.  

After both sides acknowledged negotiations had fallen apart, the Mets said they were opening a bidding process for the team, one that won't include a five-year transition period. So with that in mind, sports bankers and lawyers are wondering why the Mets don't turn back to Cohen, who is worth anywhere from $9 billion to $13 billion, depending on which estimates one goes by.

Steve Cohen
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One sports banker told The Athletic he's concerned he will prepare a buyer, only to see Cohen top the offer. Another banker said he's worried Cohen's looming presence could scare off bidders.

Meanwhile, one banking source told the website that, for the first time, SNY is available to an interested bidder, which wasn't the case during the initial Cohen negotiations. The regional sports network that televises Mets games could be key in attracting buyers because, according to a New York Times article last week, the team lost more than $50 million last season, but SNY had roughly $150 million in profits. The network's potential market value alone is estimated at more than $1 billion, the Times report said. The Wilpons own 65% of SNY. 

But there are questions as to whether Cohen, who is the CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management and currently owns an 8% share of the Mets, destroyed his chances to buy the team based on how he conducted himself in the negotiations. According to a New York Post report, the Mets and Major League Baseball believe Cohen acted in bad faith by breaking the terms of a nonbinding term sheet. Combined with Cohen's controversial record with his hedge fund business, it's possible he might never be approved as a majority owner. One source told the Post, even if Cohen and the Mets had closed on a deal, "there could have still been approval issues."

In 2013, Cohen's firm, then known as SAC Capital, agreed to pay $1.8 billion to settle charges that it tolerated rampant insider trading. In 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission barred Cohen -- who was accused of failing to adequately oversee an employee who engaged in insider trading -- from managing money for outside investors for two years. Cohen did not admit to any wrongdoing.