Sterling Partners, Cohen agree to Mets sale

September 14th, 2020

NEW YORK -- The Wilpon family announced Monday that it has signed an agreement to sell the Mets to Steve Cohen. The transaction is subject to the approval of the other Major League Baseball owners and is worth slightly more than $2.4 billion, according to a source -- a record for a North American professional sports team.

“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, 64, is a hedge fund manager and lifelong Mets fan who currently owns an 8 percent stake in the team. He attempted to purchase a majority share of the Mets last November, but negotiations fell apart. In that deal, the Wilpons would have retained operating control of the Mets for five years.

Sterling Equities, the Wilpon-run parent company of the Mets, subsequently put the team up for auction, before again entering exclusive negotiations with Cohen this summer. This time, the sides struck a deal to transfer ownership within months, announcing Monday that they signed a record sale agreement. The $2.4 billion-plus sale valuation tops the $2.35 billion valuation of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, partially sold last year. The NFL’s Carolina Panthers sold for $2.275 billion in 2018.

According to a source, the Mets’ deal does not include SNY, the Sterling Equities-owned cable network that is under contract to broadcast all games through 2030. Sterling will also retain a 5 percent ownership stake in the team itself.

The deal will be put to vote no later than the MLB Owners Meetings in November, according to sources, with approvals needed from at least 23 of the other 29 owners for Cohen to assume ownership. If the sale passes, it will mark the end of the Wilpon family’s control of the Mets after 34 years.

A successful Brooklyn-born businessman, Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law, Saul Katz, purchased their first stake in the Mets in 1980, then became 50-50 partners with former majority owner Nelson Doubleday in 1986. Wilpon, who was team president at that time, served in that role until becoming majority owner of the Mets in 2002. His ownership group retained 50-50 ownership until 2002, when it bought out Doubleday’s holdings to make Wilpon majority owner and control person. Katz became team president at that time, while Jeff Wilpon, Fred’s son, became COO.

In recent years, Jeff Wilpon has played a significant role in baseball operations. Fred Wilpon has retained influence on major decisions, while playing less of a role in day-to-day procedures.

Under the Wilpons’ ownership, the Mets won the World Series in 1986 and the NL pennant in 2000 and 2015.

The Wilpons will now turn ownership over to Cohen, a Long Island native and the founder of the hedge fund Point72 Asset Management. Cohen is worth $14.6 billion, according to Forbes. At auction, Cohen outbid multiple other groups, according to sources, including one led by former Major Leaguer Alex Rodriguez and his fiancée, Jennifer Lopez.