EXCLUSIVE: As Mets sale struggles during pandemic, return of Steve Cohen unlikely

Hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen, founder and chairman of SAC Capital Advisors, listens to a question during a one-on-one interview session at the SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada May 11, 2011. Cohen, whose SAC Capital Advisors has drawn scrutiny from prosecutors probing insider trading, said his firm has and will cooperate with all government investigations. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

By Joe Pantorno

Now more than ever, New York Mets fans are hoping for a knight in shining armor to ride in and save the team from the Wilpon family after a source told amNewYork Metro on Monday that the current owners would no longer invest considerable funds in the team if they don’t find a buyer for the 2021 season. 

The subsequent wave of fans and supporters of the club opining for a return of Steve Cohen to the suitor’s table was a sizable one — filled with hopes that the 64-year-old hedgefund billionaire who grew up a Mets fan on Long Island will come back in the picture to remount a challenge of buying a majority share of the team. He currently holds an 8% minority stake, which includes no voting rights.

In February, two-month-long negotiations between Cohen and the Mets broke down when the potential buyer attempted to amend the terms of the deal in the final moments — leaving the Wilpon family to abandon the $2.6 billion deal for 80% of the team.

Ensuing reports suggested that Cohen would swoop back in on a deal, or he was lurking in the shadows to come in and take majority ownership — but those expectations, especially from the fan base, might want to be reeled in.

In conversations I’ve had with those familiar with the situation, there is doubt that Cohen would ever lead a charge toward Mets ownership again — especially if the Wilpons’ terms of retaining the SNY TV station and control of the team for five years remain. 

That’s even with a drastic decrease in the value of that same 80% stake in the club. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell in April, financial hits taken during the coronavirus pandemic saw the price drop $1 billion to $1.6 billion. 

If he were to enter the fold again, it would likely be as a part of a larger group — but even that option is being classified as doubtful. 

Since the Cohen transaction fell through, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez retained JPMorgan Chase to raise capital back in April before momentum stalled. However, it picked back up again in late-May as they began to piece together a new bid, per the New York Post

Last week, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer were also tabbed as potential suitors to buy the Mets. On Monday, it was reported that they acquired a less-than-5% stake in the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, but it will not affect their pursuit of the Mets, per Forbes’ Shlomo Sprung

Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon revealed that there were “four or five” suitors interested in buying the Mets, including an international mystery man, but that has been met with skepticism. 

On Tuesday morning, Sportico’s Scott Soshnick reported that the Wilpons are seeking to extend their $250 million loan from JPMorgan Chase for another year, providing “a cushion while they seek a buyer amid a pandemic.”