Major League Baseball (MLB) has approved the US$2.4 billion takeover of the New York Mets by hedge fund billionaire, Steve Cohen.
The franchise is currently owned by the Wilpon family, who have headed the team for 34 years but will see their control handed over to Cohen after MLB owners voted to approve the sale.
The fee is expected to be a record high amount paid for a baseball team, currently held by the US$2 billion sale of the LA Dodgers to Guggenheim Baseball Management in 2012. An agreement was reached in September between the Mets’ parent company, Sterling Partners, that is owned by the Wilpon and Kats families.
The sale was given the green light on Friday after 26 owners to four voted in favour of the sale, with only 23 votes needed, according to the Associated Press.
“I am humbled that MLB’s owners have approved me to be the next owner of the New York Mets,” Cohen said in a statement. “Owning a team is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility.”
“My family and I are lifelong Mets fans, so we’re really excited about this.
“With free agency starting Sunday night, we will be working towards a quick close.”
It is expected that Cohen’s ownership will assume in 10 days’ time, which will see him become a 95 per cent majority owner whilst the Wilpon family will retain five per cent in the team.
Salaries were cut in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but all employees, including unionised groundskeepers, security guards and engineers will receive restored salaries, that has been valued at over US$7 million.
The current owner, Fred Wilpon said in statement: “It has been a privilege and honour for our families to have been a part of this great franchise for the past 40 years.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation for our loyal and passionate fans, who have consistently supported this organisation through the years.
“We’d also like to thank the many great players, managers, coaches and dedicated employees with whom we’ve been privileged to work through the years, for their commitment to the interests of our organisation, our industry and our community.”
“I know that Steve Cohen and his family share the same passion we’ve had for the Mets and for this city.
“Steve will continue, and will build upon, this organization’s longstanding commitment to the support of our community, and of those in need, which is especially important at this time. He shares the view that Saul, Jeff and I have long held, that ownership of the Mets is a public trust.”
The Wilpon families services to the New York Mets were also commended by baseball commissioner, Robert Manfred, as well as recognising Cohen’s ability on leading the team forwards.
“We appreciate Fred’s decades of service to league committees and the governance of the game,” he started. “Steve will bring his lifelong passion for the Mets to the stewardship of his hometown team, and he will be joined by highly respected baseball leadership as well. I believe that Steve will work hard to deliver a team in which Mets fans can take pride.”
Cohen, who already owns an eight per cent stake in the Mets, has already once before attempted to purchase the franchise in February this year, however, he missed out due to a disagreement over the control of the team during the early years of his ownership.
This led the billionaire to fight off competition from other potential interested parties, including a group led by MLB start Alex Rodriguez and fiancée Jennifer Lopez. Reportedly, Josh Harris and David Blitzer were also interested in adding another team to their portfolio, alongside New Jersey Devils ice hockey team and the Philadelphia 76ers basketball franchise.
The final years of Wilpon’s time in charge of the Mets was hampered by a failure to win any titles since owning the team solely, as well as financial losses from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Author: Jake Wilkin