Billionaire hedge fund manager Cohen agrees to buy Mets

MLB

NEW YORK (AP)Billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen has agreed to buy the New York Mets from the Wilpon and Katz families.

The team announced the agreement on Monday. The deal is subject to the approval of Major League Baseball owners.

A Cohen entity would control 95% of the team, with the Wilpon and Katz families retaining the rest. The deal values the franchise at $2.4 billion to $2.5 billion.

Former major league star Alex Rodriguez and fiancee Jennifer Lopez also attempted to buy the team, but they dropped out of the bidding last month.

”I am excited to have reached an agreement with the Wilpon and Katz families to purchase the New York Mets,” Cohen said in a statement.

Cohen also entered negotiations to buy the Mets last year, but the deal fell apart in February. He bought an 8% limited partnership stake in 2012 for $40 million. The deal that failed to close would have seen him acquire an 80% controlling share in a transaction that valued the team at $2.6 billion.

The current Mets ownership group is headed by Fred Wilpon, brother-in-law Saul Katz and Wilpon’s son Jeff, the team’s chief operating officer.

Cohen first bought into the Mets when the team sought $20 million in 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 64-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 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 Fred 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 Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners.

Wilpon led a buyout of Doubleday’s shares in 2002 and became chairman and sole controlling owner. 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.

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