Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen in talks to increase ownership with Mets

Robert Pelaez
Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, is in talks with the Sterling Partners to increase his ownership with the team. (Photo from The Island Now archives)

The future of the New York Mets could soon be in the hands of a billionaire hedge fund founder from Great Neck.

According to reports first made public yesterday by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Sterling Partners have engaged in talks centered around Great Neck native Steven A. Cohen purchasing a majority share of the team. 

The tentative deal would give Cohen up to an 80-percent stake of the Mets, totaling their value to a baseball-record $2.6 billion, according to a Bloomberg article. 

The Mets along with Sterling Partners and Cohen Private Ventures confirmed in a statement made yesterday that talks are ongoing for Cohen to “increase his investment” in the team.  In the tentative agreement, Fred Wilpon would retain his position as control person and CEO for five years and Jeff Wilpon will remain COO for a five-year period as well, according to Rosenthal.

Sterling Partners, the company that runs the franchise, is headed by Wilpon and Mets’ President Saul Katz, who is also Fred Wilpon’s brother-in-law. The company is a diversified, family-run group of companies, whose portfolio consists of entities in real estate, sports, and media in the greater New York area.  

In 1980, Wilpon purchased a one-percent stake in the Mets. He and Nelson Doubleday Jr. of Doubleday publishing company agreed to purchase the team for $81 million in 1986, less than a month after winning the World Series.  16 years later, Wilpon bought out Doubleday’s fifty-percent stake in the company for $391 million.

After the man behind the $64 billion Ponzi scheme, Bernie Madoff, was arrested in 2008, questions arose as to how close his connections were to the Mets and longtime associate Fred Wilpon. 

Both he and Katz founded their real-estate development company, Sterling Equities in 1972. 13 years later, a year before splitting ownership in the Mets, Wilpon invested $3 million with Madoff. 

According to the New York Times, more than 500 accounts that Madoff possessed could be tied to Wilpon and Katz.

While a majority of the fanbase has rejoiced in the talks of the Wilpons’ days being numbered within the organization, Cohen’s track record is less than pristine.

Cohen, the CEO of Point72 Asset Management, has an estimated net worth of $9.2 billion.  In 2013, Cohen’s hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors pleaded guilty to insider trading charges after being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission eventually coming to terms on a $600 million settlement.

A Vanity Fair article from June of 2013 portrayed Southern District New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as the Ahab to Cohen’s Moby Dick and described Cohen as the central figure of seven years of investigations that led to convictions or confessions from 71 people.

Michael Steinberg, a former top trader at SAC Capital, was charged with four counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy in 2013.  The charges against Steinberg were subsequently dismissed after the case was abandoned in 2015 after U.S. prosecutors said the case was no longer consistent with the law. He and Cohen are both alumni of Great Neck North High School.

Since 2002, the Mets have been to the postseason three times and accumulated 50 more losses than wins, going 1,432-1,482. In 2015, the team made its’ first World Series appearance in over a decade, eventually falling to the Kansas City Royals in five games.  

After a Wild Card loss to the San Fransisco Giants the following year, the team has not made the playoffs since, and fans have voiced their aggravation for management and ownership without much discretion.

If a deal is eventually agreed upon, it will need to be approved by three-quarters of Major League Baseball owners.

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