Cohen to increase stake in Mets; Wilpons remain in control

Sports

NEW YORK (AP) — A hedge fund manager whose company paid $1.8 billion in U.S. criminal and civil settlements is in negotiations to increase his stake in the New York Mets, who left open the possibility he eventually could become controlling owner.

The team said Wednesday the deal between Sterling Partners and Steve Cohen would allow 83-year-old Fred Wilpon to remain as controlling owner and chief executive officer for five years.

Jeff Wilpon, the 57-year-old son of the owner, would remain as chief operating officer. Sterling Partners is controlled by the Wilpons.

Asked whether there could be a change in control in five years, Mets spokesman Harold Kaufman said the team had no comment beyond its statement.

Cohen, 63, first bought into the Mets in 2012 when the team sought $20 million minority investment stakes following the collapse of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which cost the Wilpons and their companies large amounts.

Cohen is CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management and his stake in the Mets will continue to be managed by his family office, Cohen Private Ventures, the Mets said.

Cohen controlled SAC Capital Advisors, which in 2013 pled guilty to criminal fraud charges. SAC agreed to pay a $900 million fine and forfeit another $900 million to the federal government, though $616 million that SAC companies had already agreed to pay to settle parallel actions by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was to be deducted from the $1.8 billion.

Doubleday & Co., a publisher, bought the Mets in 1980 from the family of founding owner Joan Payson for $21.1 million, with the company owning 95 percent of the team and Wilpon controlling 5 percent.

When Doubleday & Co. was sold to the media company Bertelsmann AG in 1986, the publisher sold its shares of the team for $80.75 million to Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners.

Wilpon led a buyout of Doubleday’s shares in August 2002 and became chairman and sole controlling owner. Saul Katz, the owner’s brother-in-law and partner in the real estate firm Sterling Equities Inc., became team president and Jeff Wilpon became COO.

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