Billionaire Steve Cohen 'in talks' to increase stake in Baseball's Mets

The New York Mets play the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field in New York in September 2019 (AFP Photo/Jim McIsaac)
The New York Mets play the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field in New York in September 2019 (AFP Photo/Jim McIsaac)

New York (AFP) - New York Mets announced Wednesday that hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is in talks to "increase his investment" in the Major League Baseball club but that Fred and Jeff Wilpon will continue to run the team for the next five years.

"The Sterling Partners and Steve Cohen are negotiating an agreement in which Steve Cohen would increase his investment in the New York Mets," the team said in a statement after widespread media reports that Cohen was in negotiations to purchase a majority stake.

Sterling Partners is the investment firm of current Mets majority owners Fred Wilpon and his son Jeff.

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The Wall Street Journal reported that the Wilpons are "in talks to sell up to 80 percent" of the club to Cohen in a deal that values the Mets at $2.6 billion.

The Mets statement did not confirm any figures but said that as part of the agreement "Fred Wilpon will remain in the role of the control person and CEO for five years and Jeff Wilpon will remain in his role of chief operating officer for the 5-year period as well.

"Steve Cohen will continue as CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management and his stake in the Mets will continue to be managed by his family office, Cohen Private Ventures," the Mets said.

Cohen first bought a 4 percent stake in the Mets for $200,000 in 2012, after the Wilpons' deal to sell a third of the team to hedge fund manager David Einhorn in 2011 for $200 million collapsed.

The Wilpons sought minority investors after losing money in the notorious Ponzi scheme run by Wall Street fraudster Bernard Madoff.

In 2012 the Mets owners agreed to pay back $162 million earned from Madoff in settlement of a lawsuit seeking repayment of $303 million.

The court appointed trustee for Madoff's firm had filed the lawsuit charging the Mets owners were "willfully blind" to signs Madoff was perpetrating a fraud.

In 2013, Cohen's former firm, SAC Capital, pleaded guilty to insider trading charges and paid a record $1.8 billion penalty.

Cohen was accused of failing to adequately oversee an employee but was not personally fined.

The Mets have made it to the Major League Baseball playoffs just three times since the Wilpons became majority owners in 2002.

They lost to the Kansas City Royals in the 2015 World Series, but last reached the post-season in 2016.

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