Now it is up to the 29 other major league owners to decide whether Steve Cohen will be the next owner of the Mets.
The hedge-fund billionaire reached a deal Monday to buy the Mets for between $2.4 billion and $2.45 billion, the highest price ever paid for a North American 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 released by the team.
The next hurdles for Cohen are for him to be vetted by an ownership subcommittee that will then make a recommendation to the larger group whether to accept Cohen into their club. A vote of all owners is expected to come before November and Cohen would need 23 yeses to succeed Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz and become the fourth controlling owner since the franchise’s inception in 1962.
The hedge-fund billionaire is a polarizing figure and there are no certainties that he would garner the necessary votes. Cohen’s former hedge fund, SAC Capital, paid a $1.8 billion fine in 2013 to settle insider trading charges. His current company is being sued for gender discrimination.
However, money often wins out and Cohen is worth roughly $14 billion and the record price paid — particularly amid a pandemic — is going to be enticing to other owners who know the value of one franchise impacts all the others.
The Mets have had multiple conversations with fellow owners giving them confidence Cohen will gain approval, a source close to the situation said. However, there are team officials who caution that this is not a layup.
Multiple sources say the deal does not include the Mets television network, SNY. There was speculation that Cohen might try to include the network in late negotiations, but that appears to not have occurred.
“If SNY had been included, the number would have been even bigger,” one insider said. “Now the Wilpons get to keep that revenue for at least a few more years.”
Insiders also tell The Post that there will be a call with the team’s minority owners on Thursday. Based on the new math of Cohen owning 95% and the Wilpons retaining 5%, the minority owners are assuming they are being bought out.
Based on the price Cohen is paying, there will likely be little resistance.
Cohen had previously reached an agreement to buy 80% of the Mets for $2.6 billion, but that deal fell apart last February over disputes including how much input and influence the Wilpons would continue to wield during a five-year interim period after the sale.
The Mets were then put up for auction. Initially, Cohen did not bid, but then jumped back in. He grew up a Mets fan on Long Island and his passion for the team has not waned — his wife and father-in-law are also avid Met fans. This is Cohen’s white whale and he wanted to own the club.
A consortium assembled by Alex Rodriguez and his fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, emerged as the strongest competitor to Cohen. The auction had a last-and-best offer date of Aug. 31.
According to sources, the A-Rod group requested exclusive negotiating rights in the days leading up to Aug. 31 or it would drop out, which it did. The sources said the firm running the auction, Allen and Company, became concerned that the A-Rod group would make that decision public and that would move Cohen to lower his bid. So, the Wilpons and Katz pivoted to Cohen and agreed to enter into exclusive negotiations with him.
The Rodriguez/Lopez group has attempted to stay a viable contender ever since. The consortium agreed that it would pay $2.35 billion. Subsequently, the A-Rod group let it be known that Lopez would be the control person, appealing because she would be the first Latina owner of a major sports franchise in North America.
However, despite the anger the Wilpons harbored from the initial sale falling through, they never flinched and stuck with finalizing a deal with Cohen. The price was right and so was the timing — the Wilpons and Katz want to be done with the sale by Dec. 31 for tax purposes. Cohen, who already was a limited partner who owned 8 percent, will now get 95 percent of the team, as long as the other owners vote him in.
Cohen’s current deal is for hundreds of millions less than the terms he initially walked away from, leading one Wall Street insider familiar with Cohen to say, “The pandemic helped lower the price. But the Wilpons underestimated him this whole time and now he’s walking away with his team on his terms.”
Cohen’s candidacy — because of his financial wherewithal — always has been most favored by Mets fans, who have imagined him bringing the club’s payroll up to Yankee ranges … or beyond.
Now it is just up to the other owners to see if that is actually what Cohen would do with the team.