Billionaire Steve Cohen is still interested in buying the New York Mets if current ownership reverses course and agrees to sell its stake in the team’s profitable cable network SNY, according to a report Thursday.
Cohen, who earlier this month backed out of an initial $2.6 billion deal to buy the franchise amid disagreements with current owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, wants SNY’s $150 million in annual profit to offset a financial shortfall from the team itself, the New York Post reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. Under the original sale terms, the Wilpons would have kept control of SNY.
“Cohen wants SNY, and he wants it at fair value,” a sports banker with knowledge of the matter told the Post. “The team loses $50 million a year in a good year, so he wants SNY’s revenue, and he might pay a small premium to never have to deal with Fred and Jeff [Wilpon] ever again.”
The sports channel was formed in 2006. It is a joint venture between the Wilpons’ Sterling Equities and cable companies Charter Communications through its Spectrum unit and Comcast via its NBC Sports Group subsidiary. SNY reportedly has an overall valuation of up to $1 billion. Aside from holding local broadcast rights for the Mets, SNY airs content related to the NFL’s New York Jets and several regional college sports programs.
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Cohen, who holds a minority ownership stake in the Mets, reached a tentative deal to buy a majority stake from the Wilpons last December. Under the deal’s terms, Cohen would have acquired 80 percent of the Mets at a $2.6 billion valuation.
The deal collapsed after disagreements arose about the transfer of power. The Wilpons wanted to remain in control of the Mets for a five-year period following the sale, with Cohen taking over once the period had expired.
In the absence of a deal with Cohen, the Mets are pursuing a sale by auction. At present, it’s unclear if any bidders have emerged to match the Wilpons’ purported $3 billion asking price.
Former MLB superstar Alex Rodriguez has interest in joining a group of investors to buy the team at auction, the Post reported earlier this month.
The Mets have repeatedly referred requests for comment on the situation to an earlier statement attributed to Jeff Wilpon.
"We would like to assure our fans that we will continue our commitment to winning in 2020 and beyond and we'll work hard to earn and maintain everyone's confidence and trust," Wilpon said. "We'll be moving forward to find a new transaction. We will not be giving details or updates on the timeline or process until we are prepared to make a public announcement."