Just two months after the announcement that hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen was working on a $2.6 billion deal to take majority owenship of the Mets from Fred and Jeff Wilpon, things have taken a turn for the worse.
Some outlets, including MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred himself, are reporting that the deal is essentially dead, while others leave open the possibility that the negotiations will continue. But there is widespread consensus on what has triggered this pending collapse, and it will not surprise Mets fans: The Wilpons want to maintain control over the on-field product.
The original outline of the plan involved a five-year transition during which Cohen’s control of the team would gradually increase from his current eight percent up to 80% with the assumption that input over baseball operations would increase accordingly. Sources close to the proceedings have reported that the Wilpons are pushing back on that assumption, though both parties are subject to non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from making public statements confirming or denying these reports.
Not only does this account jive with the Wilpons’ long-standing reputation of intervening in the the team’s day-to-day baseball operations, but it also aligns with the rumors that similar demands led to the collapse of their ill-fated 2011 deal to sell a significant portion of the team to another billionaire hedge-fund manager, David Einhorn. The team has contradicted these rumors, claiming issues around Einhorn’s approval by MLB.
At this point, fans eager for a new sheriff in town will have to wait to know for sure whether the much-anticipated transfer of power is indeed dead in the water or whether the upheaval is just another negotiation tactic.