MLB owners have voted to approve billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen as the new owner of the New York Mets, it was announced Friday.
The proposed purchase of 95% of the Mets by an entity of Cohen had already been approved by MLB's ownership committee. Cohen needed 23 of the 30 clubs to sign off for the deal to be approved, and The Associated Press reported, citing a source, that the vote was 26-4.
The sale values the franchise at $2.4 billion to $2.5 billion.
Cohen, 64, is CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management.
The Mets' ownership group had been headed by Fred Wilpon, his brother-in-law Saul Katz and Wilpon's son Jeff, the team's chief operating officer. The Wilpon and Katz families will retain 5% of the team after the sale, which is expected to be finalized within the next 10 days.
"I extend my best wishes to Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and Jeff Wilpon and thank them for their longstanding efforts for the Mets. In particular, we appreciate Fred's decades of service to league committees and the governance of the game," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Mr. Cohen on receiving approval from the Major League Clubs. Steve will bring his lifelong passion for the Mets to the stewardship of his hometown team, and he will be joined by highly respected baseball leadership as well. I believe that Steve will work hard to deliver a team in which Mets fan can take pride."
Fred Wilpon issued a statement on behalf of the Wilpon and Katz families thanking the fans, players, managers, coaches and employees for their support over the years.
"It has been a privilege and honor for our families to have been a part of this great franchise for the past 40 years," Wilpon said. "... I know that Steve Cohen and his family share the same passion we've had for the Mets and for this City. Steve will continue, and will build upon, this organization's longstanding commitment to the support of our community, and of those in need, which is especially important at this time."
Cohen first bought into the Mets when the team sought $20 million in minority investment stakes following the collapse of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which was costly to the Wilpons and their companies. The limited partnership shares were sold after a proposed $200 million sale of a stake of the Mets to hedge fund manager David Einhorn fell through in 2011.
Cohen already has announced that former general manager Sandy Alderson would return as team president.
"My family and I are lifelong Mets fans, so we're really excited about this,'' Cohen said. "With free agency starting Sunday night, we will be working towards a quick close.''
Cohen said all Mets employees, including unionized groundskeepers, security guards and engineers, will receive restored pre-pandemic salaries as of Sunday that reverse 5%-30% salary cuts that started in March. He valued the restoration at over $7 million.
A seasonal relief fund also will start Sunday and run through Opening Day for about 1,000 Citi Field employees of subcontractors that makes each eligible for $500 monthly, a commitment of about $2.5 million.
Cohen pledged to "dramatically increase'' donations by the Mets Foundation and to prioritize not-for-profits and causes in the Citi Field area. He agreed to donate $17.5 million to programs developed by New York City to make grants to area small businesses through the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Cohen made his announcement as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city does not object to the sale. The city had the right to review the proposed transfer of the lease of Citi Field, the Mets' home since 2009
A provision in the city's lease agreement says any new owner of the team cannot be someone who has been convicted of a felony or is an organized crime figure.
Cohen's former company, SAC Capital Partners, pleaded guilty in an insider trading case in 2014 and paid $1.8 billion in fines. Cohen was not charged in the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.