The Wilpons are currently in the process of selling up to 80 percent of their stake in the Mets to billionaire Steve Cohen, according to reports. While the potential sale has been confirmed by a press release, Bloomberg.com was first to report the 80 percent figure. A potential hint that a sale was coming was dropped by former Giants running back Tiki Barber, of all people, on his show “Tiki and Tierney.”
Cohen, who already owns a portion of the team through Cohen Private Ventures, his family office. In the joint statement released by Cohen Private Ventures and Sterling Partners, the controlling ownership group of the Mets helmed by Fred Wilpon, the two sides are currently in negotiations. As part of the deal to increase Cohen’s share, Fred Wilpon would remain the “Control Person” for the Mets for five years, and his son Jeff Wilpon would also remain COO for five years.
If this deal were to happen, it paints a clear timeline of when the Wilpons will no longer be running the Mets, which they have done since 2002, when Fred Wilpon bought out his then-partner Nelson Doubleday with the help of the Sterling Partners.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Cohen is worth $9.2 billion. That would make him the richest owner in Major League Baseball.
Cohen is maybe most famous for all the wrong reasons. His hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, pleaded guilty to insider trading in 2013. In total, the firm payed around $1.8 billion in fines and penalties. Additionally, a number of employees and former employees were charged for a litany of crimes, including insider trading and securities fraud. Cohen managed to avoid any individual charges, despite the company literally being named after him (Steven A. Cohen = SAC). The Showtime show “Billions” is loosely based on the plight of SAC Capital Advisors, with Damian Lewis’ character Robert “Bobby” Axelrod being based on Cohen himself.
After that case, Cohen started a new hedge fund, Point72 Asset Management, in 2014. According to the release, he will remain the CEO and President of Point72 while his stake in the Mets remains controlled by the family company.
Mike Puma has reported, via a friend of Steve Cohen, that Cohen intends to “play the game at the highest level” in regards to signing players.
According to the Bloomberg report, citing a person familiar with the matter, “Fred Wilpon is making the move as part of estate and philanthropic planning.”
Additionally, Joel Sherman is reporting that Fred Wilpon’s brother-in-law, Sol Katz, has wanted out of the Mets, and that none of Katz’s children were interested in the team either, creating “succession issues.”
Of course, the Mets current owners are not stranger to fraud cases: The Wilpons were squarely in the middle of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, eventually losing millions.