Earlier this week Major League Baseball's Executive Committee voted in favor of permitting the sale of the New York Mets to Steve Cohen to proceed. Cohen's purchase was approved during Friday's owners' vote, MLB announced, and the sale is expected to close within 10 days. Cohen required the support of 22 of the 29 other owners, or more than 75 percent.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred released the following statement Friday:
"I extend my best wishes to Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and Jeff Wilpon and thank them for their longstanding efforts for the Mets. In particular, we appreciate Fred's decades of service to league committees and the governance of the game.
"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Mr. Cohen on receiving approval from the Major League Clubs. Steve will bring his lifelong passion for the Mets to the stewardship of his hometown team, and he will be joined by highly respected baseball leadership as well. I believe that Steve will work hard to deliver a team in which Mets fan can take pride."
Cohen, 64, agreed to purchase 95 percent of the Mets for roughly $2.5 billion in September. Sterling Partners, the entity run by the Wilpon family and Saul Katz that previously owned of the Mets, will retain the remaining five percent of the team. The Wilpons originally purchased a minority share of the Mets in the 1980s. They purchased controlling interest in 2002.
Back in February, talks between Cohen and the Wilpons fell apart because the deal was "highly complicated" and "too difficult to execute." The two sides eventually returned to the negotiating table and worked out a new sale agreement in September. Cohen owned a minority stake in the team prior to this deal to purchase controlling interest in the club.
In a statement following the owners' vote, Cohen said the Mets will "dramatically increase the giving of the Mets Foundation in the coming years, with priority given to non-profits and causes in communities surrounding Citi Field." Cohen will also reinstate "pre-pandemic salaries as of Nov. 1, reversing the 5-30% salary cut implemented in March" for all team employees.
Once Cohen received approval from the other owners, the only remaining obstacle was New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who had to approve the transfer of the Citi Field lease because the ballpark sits on land owned by the city. The mayor's office signed off on the sale soon after the owners' vote Friday.
The lease allowed the mayor's office to block the sale to "any person that has been convicted in a criminal proceeding for a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude." Cohen have never been convicted of a crime but he does not have a pristine past either. Here's what the New York Post wrote about Cohen's past:
While Cohen's connection to insider trading (S.A.C. Capital Advisors, which he founded, pleaded guilty in 2013 to the crime and paid $1.8 billion in fines) hardly makes him an ideal candidate, the fact Cohen himself was not convicted creates some cushion, and the price he is paying -- the most ever for an MLB team -- further boosts his case, as owners enjoy seeing their franchise values rise. Cohen's status as a singular entity, unlike the Alex Rodriguez-Jennifer Lopez conglomerate, also helps.
There was some urgency to get de Blasio's approval., and the Mets didn't want to be stuck in limbo waiting for the sale to be finalized. It would have put them at a competitive disadvantage early in the offseason. That is no longer the case now.
Cohen has a net worth north of $10 billion and is now the wealthiest MLB owner by far -- Nationals owner Mark Lerner had been the previous wealthiest owner with a net worth around $5 billion -- though it's unclear how aggressive he will allow the Mets to be this winter. The rest of the league is expected to take a conservative fiscal approach in response to the pandemic.
What is clear is that Cohen will be installing his own charges. Longtime MLB general manager Sandy Alderson will become the team president, and the expectation around the league is that current Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen will be ousted. Oakland Athletics assistant GM Billy Owens has surfaced as a popular candidate to replace Van Wagenen should that come to fruition.
The Mets finished in last place in the NL East at 26-34 this past season. They do have a strong MLB core, however, led by the great Jacob deGrom. Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, and others suggest the Mets only need a few upgrades to reach the postseason, not an overhaul.