Tentative sale of Mets to Great Neck native, hedge fund manager Steve Cohen falls through

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Great Neck native and hedge fund manager Steve Cohen has backed out of negotiations to purchase a majority ownership stake of the New York Mets. (Photo from the Island Now archives)

Despite New York Mets fans thinking Christmas came early when reports came out in December of hedge fund manager Steve Cohen potentially acquiring a majority stake in the team, Cohen announced on Tuesday he has backed out of discussions.

“I’m very disappointed we couldn’t work out a deal, but as an 8 percent holder, I’m looking forward to a higher bid for the team,” according to a statement Cohen sent to the New York Times on Thursday.

Cohen, a Great Neck native, is the CEO of Point72 Asset Management and has an estimated net worth of $9.2 billion. In 2012, Cohen bought an 8 percent partnership stake in the team for $40 million.

The Mets have also released a statement officially confirming the end of any potential sale between Cohen and Sterling Partners, the company that runs the franchise. 

“The transaction between Sterling and Steve Cohen was a highly complicated one,” the team said in a statement released on Thursday. “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.”

Sterling is headed by team CEO Fred Wilpon and Mets’ President Saul Katz, who is also Wilpon’s brother-in-law. The company is a diversified, family-run group of companies, whose portfolio consists of entities in real estate, sports, and media in the greater New York area.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred commented on the situation before any official statements from Cohen or the Mets were made. 

“My belief is there’s not going to be a transaction,” Manfred said on Thursday at the league’s annual owners meeting in Orlando, Fla.

The team also announced Sterling Partners intends to pursue a new transaction.

The Mets along with Sterling Partners and Cohen Private Ventures confirmed in a statement made on Dec. 4 that talks for Cohen to “increase his investment” in the team were ongoing.  

An initial, tentative agreement, Fred Wilpon would retain his position as control person and CEO for five years and Jeff Wilpon would remain Chief Operating Officer for a five-year period as well, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Cohen would have acquired an eighty percent controlling share in a tentative transaction that would increase the team’s value to $2.6 billion. 

The deal would have made Cohen one of the richest majority owners in league history.

In 2013, Cohen’s hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors pleaded guilty to insider trading charges after being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission eventually coming to terms on a $600 million settlement.

A Vanity Fair article from June of 2013 portrayed Southern District New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as the Ahab to Cohen’s Moby Dick and described Cohen as the central figure of seven years of investigations that led to convictions or confessions from 71 people.

Cohen left Mets fans with a sense of gratitude after he officially confirmed the end of a potential negotiation.

“I want to thank the fans for their support and the respect they showed me and I want to thank Commissioner Manfred and MLB for their support through the process,” he wrote. “I gave it my best shot.”

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