Stephen A. Cohen, director of the billionaire hedge fund, received two significant rubber stamps Friday that they all bought the $ 2.4 billion Mets: one from Major League Baseball owners the other from New York City – the latter of which had thrown up a potential hurdle recently.
“Having a team is a great privilege and a great responsibility,” Cohen said in a statement on Friday afternoon, adding later, “I consider it an honor to be the new owner of this famous franchise.”
The Association of Twenty-nine other MLB owners announced the approval of the Cohen Group as buyers of the Mets race at a conference call Friday. Cohen, who has already been vetted by the MLB and approved by his property committee, needs 23 more owners to vote for him. Two people familiar with the vote, who spoke on condition of anonymity because MLB did not release the tally, said the total was 4-26.
MLB said in a statement that Cohen’s approval was conditional on closing the sale deal with the current owners of Mets. This was expected to happen “within the next ten days,” the statement said.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred thanked the departing Angel – Fred Welbon, Saul Katz and Jeff Welbon – in a statement and welcomed Cohen, 64, who grew up as a Mets fan in Great Nick, New York
“Steve will bring his enduring passion for Mets to the leadership of his hometown team, and he will also be joined by the well-respected leadership of baseball,” said Manfred. “I think Steve will work hard to deliver a team that the Mets fans can be proud of.”
in a Goodbye statement, Fred Welboun thanked the former employees and said it was “a privilege and an honor for our families” to be part of Mets for 40 years.
“I know that Steve Cohen and his family share the same passion that we feel for Mets and this city,” he said, adding later, “Steve and his family are lifelong Mets fans and we wish them, and our fans, nothing but success on and off the field in the future.”
Shortly after MLB owners approved Cohen, Mayor Bill de Blasio – whose office had a contractual right to review the deal because Mets rents Citi Field from New York City – announced approval of the sale.
“The New York City Law Department has completed its legal review of the proposed sale of Mets,” de Blasio said in a statement Friday afternoon. “New York City does not object to the sale, and Mets may proceed with the deal.”
Legal review included a clause in the Citi Field lease that stated that the transfer of ownership is a “permissible transaction” only if the buyer is not a “prohibited person.” A lease agreement defines a “prohibited person” as any person who “directly or indirectly controls, controls, or is under common control with a person who has been convicted in a criminal case of a felony or any crime involving ethical breaches.”
Cohen was never charged with a crime, but it was discovered that his former company, SAC Capital Partners, in 2013 was involved in internal trade and ultimately paid $ 1.8 billion in fines. Matthew Martoma, one of Cohen’s employees, was convicted of internal trade and sentenced to nine years in prison.
Several lawsuits of discrimination by women have also been filed at Point72 Asset Management, Cohen’s current company.
De Blasio had previously voiced a favorite among the Mets Buyers: a group led by singer and actress Jennifer Lopez and her husband Alex Rodriguez, a former baseball star and current television analyst. Lopez and Rodriguez put on a competitive bid, but the Welbon family chose to sell to Cohen, whose net worth is estimated to be roughly $ 15 billion.
“Some people try to attribute this to personal feelings – it isn’t,” de Blasio said at a news conference on Thursday. “It is a legal responsibility that we have to do appropriately.”
A day later, de Blasio announced the completion of the city review. Cohen – whom Mets fans see as a savior of a series plagued by financial woes, field performance, and mismanagement of people – made the initial gestures that he said were examples of his group’s intention to be a “strong supporter” of the Mets community in Queens and beyond.
Cohen said he will donate $ 17.5 million to the New York City Economic Development Corporation tax deduction to support the city-run grant programs that will help local small businesses affected during the coronavirus pandemic.
He also announced that the salary cuts for Mets employees, which went into effect in March and ranged from 5 to 30 percent, would be reversed from November 1 – a commitment he said was worth more than $ 7 million. Cohen also said that the Mets would establish a relief fund of around $ 2.5 million that would contribute up to $ 500 per month for every 1,000 seasonal workers at the stadium from November 1 through opening day in 2021.
A previous effort by Cohen to buy Mets from Wilbon was foiled. After a deal was struck last winter, the deal collapsed in February due to Wilpons’ desire to retain control of the franchise for an interim period of five years. Months later, Mets reopened the bid and Cohen won.
In his statement, Cohen thanked Manfred and the Angel for welcoming him. He also thanked Fred Welbon for his invitation to buy a minority stake in the team in 2012.
“Most of all, I want to thank the Mets fans for their unwavering support throughout this process,” Cohen said in his statement. “My family and I are a lifelong Mets fan, so we’re really excited about it. With a free agency starting Sunday night, we’re going to have a quick shutdown.”
Tyler Kepner, Dana Rubinstein, and David Waldstein all contributed to the report.