ORLANDO, Fla. – Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and the New York Mets say talks have ended over the proposed sale of a controlling share of the team from the families of Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen.
The Mets said Thursday night in a statement they intend to find another buyer, although it's unclear if a future transaction would involve a controlling share of the franchise.
The Mets said Dec. 4 the contemplated deal between Sterling Partners and Cohen would have allowed 83-year-old Fred Wilpon to remain controlling owner and chief executive officer for five years. His son Jeff would have remained chief operating officer during that time as well.
The Mets statement called the proposed deal “a highly complicated one.”
“Despite the efforts of the parties over the past several months, it became apparent that the transaction as contemplated would have been too difficult to execute," the team said.
Manfred said at the end of an owners' meeting that "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.
“I’m very disappointed we couldn’t work out a deal, but as an 8% holder I’m looking forward to a higher bid for the team," Cohen said in a statement. "I gave it my best shot.”
Wilpon repeatedly declined comment at the MLB meetings this week.
The Mets say they have brought in New York-based investment bank Allen & Company to manage the sale 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 2002 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.