Yesterday, rumors surfaced that SAC honcho Steve Cohen may buy a $20M stake
in the Mets.
Now word on the street is the Mets' TV partners may swoop in with $80M cash
to keep the team solvent.
My parents always told me too much TV was bad for me. Apparently they lied about that too.
Here's the story:When the owners of the Mets
set out to raise $200 million last year, they first tried to find one
big investor. But the plan to sell a third of the team to David Einhorn,
a hedge fund manager, collapsed.
Then they sent out the equivalent of a casting call to smaller
investors -- not super-rich Wall Street financiers but wealthy fans who
could afford to part with $10 million or $20 million. The Mets wanted to
get 10 in all, and they were confident they could, maybe even quickly.
It might be a surgeon from Manhasset, or an orthodontist from
As it turned out, at least half the money may be coming from a much different cast. One of the investors is Steven A. Cohen,
a hedge fund wizard. The others -- in a rather striking development
given the latest stated plan of the Mets' owners -- would be the team's
partners in the SNY cable network.
Time Warner Cable and Comcast are nearing a plan to finance SNY's
purchase of four shares in the Mets, worth $80 million, said one person e
with knowledge of the plan who was not authorized to speak publicly.
If the deal is completed, the Mets would appear to have buyers for the 10 shares they are selling.
That means they will have much-needed cash to pay off their substantial
debts. But it would be a slightly quirky way of doing it. The deal would
mean 16 percent of the Mets would be owned by SNY. The Mets' parent
company, Sterling Equities, owns 70 percent of the network.
To an extent, it is all in the family.
Lee Berke, the president of a media consulting company, said that Time
Warner Cable and Comcast "don't want to see the team stumble as it has
been, because it directly impacts what they're putting on TV. This is
shaping up as a multiyear downswing for the Mets, and this is a way to
keep them above water."
Cohen, as it happens, was one of the first people asked by the Wilpon
family to buy a large chunk of the team. Cohen, the founder of SAC
Capital Advisors, grew up a Mets fan in Great Neck and is a season
ticket-holder at Citi Field. He chose not to buy into the team last
year, but now is almost certain to purchase a single share worth $20
million. His plans to do so were first reported by The Los Angeles
A person familiar with his plan to buy a share in the Mets said he was doing it as a favor to his friend Fred Wilpon,
the team's principal owner. Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for Cohen,
declined to comment, as did executives for Comcast and Time Warner
But Cohen might not own a bit of the Mets for long. If he beats a
crowded field of rivals bidding for the Dodgers, he would have to sell
his Mets' stake. Wilpon, however, would be able to use his money until
then and have first dibs on buying back the share. Major League Baseball
would give the Mets a reasonable amount of time to find a buyer to
As for Time Warner Cable and Comcast, it was not immediately clear why
they would not invest directly in the Mets. But the two companies
clearly want to put money into Wilpon's financially beleaguered hands
(the club has lost some $120 million in the last two years), even if it
has to be routed through SNY, to ensure that the team meets its $200
"Their interests are aligned with the team's doing well," said Chris
Bevilacqua, a sports media investor and adviser. "They were probably
monitoring the situation very closely and probably made a judgment that
there'd be a point in time where they'd have an opportunity to do what
Together, Time Warner Cable and Comcast own about 30 percent of SNY. The network started carrying Mets games in 2006.
The ownership profile that the Mets envisioned last September, after the
Einhorn deal blew up, was described by Steve Greenberg, the Mets'
investment banker, who is also advising Cohen on the Dodgers.
"We've had calls from people who said, 'We can't put up $200 million,
but we can put up $20 million,' " he said at the time. "There are dozens
who have contacted us." He said a lineup of "legitimate Mets fans" who
wanted a small slice of the team would be "more collegial, a lot of fun
and a lot less stressful" than having a single minority owner.
An early term sheet provided to potential Mets investors said that
buyers of the $20 million minority shares would have to hold on to them
for at least three years.
The Mets need the $200 million to repay a $25 million loan to Major
League Baseball and a $40 million loan to Bank of America.
In another inside-the-family transaction, the Mets recently sold two
additional shares, worth $40 million, to Sterling, their parent. The
money was earmarked to offset losses.