To the great disappointment of New York Mets fans everywhere, the sale of the team to billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen fell through last week. The implosion of the sale is a bit embarrassing (an emotion the Mets are deeply familiar with), and the owners are taking steps to make sure the next sale sticks.
According to Bloomberg, the Wilpons are now willing to give up control of the team immediately once the team is sold. That’s a total turnaround from the preconditions they placed on the sale with Cohen, which was reportedly the sticking point in the negotiations between the two parties.
Cohen made a record $2.6 billion bid to buy the Mets in December and increase his ownership share from 8 percent to as much as 80 percent, but the Wilpons placed two conditions on the sale of the team: patriarch Fred Wilpon would stay in his role as CEO and team control person for five years after the sale is finalized, and his son, Jeff Wilpon, would stay in his role as chief operating officer for five years after the sale is finalized.
That arrangement was announced in December with Cohen presumably on board, but the dissolution of the sale reportedly stemmed from the details. It initially wasn’t clear how much decision-making power the Wilpons sought from retaining their titles under new ownership, but apparently it was a lot.
At the late stages of his agreement to buy 80 percent of the franchise for $2.6 billion, Cohen was informed by Fred and Jeff Wilpon that their plan was for Jeff to maintain total operational control of the Mets throughout the pre-agreed-to five-year transition period and then maintain a senior role within the organization even after Cohen took over.
The Wilpons wanted to act as de facto owners for five years while Cohen actually owned the team, and then Jeff Wilpon wanted to continue to have a say in how the team was run even after they ceded control. Considering how divisive (and bumbling) the Wilpons have been since they bought the team in 2002, it’s easy to imagine Cohen balking at that.
After the Cohen sale debacle, the Wilpons are reportedly taking the more traditional route: They’ll accept multiple bids for the team, and once it’s sold they’ll give up control immediately. That’s a step in the right direction, but most Mets fans probably won’t believe it until they see it happen. Can you blame them?
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