Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says talks have ended over the proposed sale of a controlling share of the New York Mets from the families of Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz to hedge fund manager Steven Cohen.
The Mets said Dec. 4 the contemplated deal between Sterling Partners and Cohen would have allowed 83-year-old Fred Wilpon to remain as controlling owner and chief executive officer for five years. His son Jeff would remain as chief operating officer.
“There is not going to be a transaction,” Manfred said at the end of an owners’ meeting. “I can tell you, and it’s based on conversations with the buyer and the seller on an ongoing basis, the assertion that the transaction fell apart because of something the Wilpons did is completely and utterly unfair.”Cohen bought an 8% limited partnership stake in 2012 for $40 million. The deal under discussion would have seen him acquire an 80% controlling share in a transaction that values the team at $2.6 billion.
Wilpon repeatedly declined comment at the MLB meetings this week. After Manfred’s remarks, spokesmen for the Mets and Cohen declined comment.
Manfred would not speculate whether the deal could be resurrected.
“My soothsaying is not great. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “As of right now, it’s my belief that that transaction is not going forward.”
Cohen first bought into the Mets in 2012 when the team sought $20 million minority investment stakes following the collapse of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which heavily cost the Wilpons and their companies. The limited partnership shares were sold after a proposed $200 million sale of a stake of the Mets to hedge fund manager David Einhorn fell through in 2011.
The 63-year-old Cohen is CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management.
Cohen controlled SAC Capital Advisors, which in 2013 pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges. SAC agreed to pay a $900 million fine and forfeit another $900 million to the federal government, though $616 million that SAC companies had already agreed to pay to settle parallel actions by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was to be deducted from the $1.8 billion.
The publisher Doubleday & Co. bought the Mets in 1980 from the family of founding owner Joan Payson for $21.1 million, with the company owning 95% of the team and Wilpon controlling 5%.
When Doubleday & Co. was sold to the media company Bertelsmann AG in 1986, the publisher sold its shares of the team for nearly $81 million to Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners.
Wilpon led a buyout of Doubleday’s shares in 002 and became chairman and sole controlling owner. Saul Katz, the owner’s brother-in-law and partner in the real estate firm Sterling Equities Inc., became team president and Jeff Wilpon became COO.