Citi Field lease clause could stymie billionaire’s quest for the Mets

The city could stop the bid thanks to a clause limiting felons from owning the team

Steve Cohen and Citi Field (Getty)
Steve Cohen and Citi Field (Getty)

Little stands in the way of Steve Cohen, the billionaire hedge fund manager, acquiring the New York Mets — but it’s not a done deal yet.

The billionaire is the co-founder of Point72 Asset Management, formerly known as SAC Capital, which pleaded guilty to securities and wire fraud in 2013, paving the way for New York City to deny his bid for the Mets, the New York Times reported.

A clause in the baseball team’s lease agreement for its stadium, Citi Field, with the city precludes the transfer of ownership to a felon or a person who has “controlled” a felon. Cohen has never been convicted of a crime, but his company’s misdeeds could unravel his quest for the Mets. The city could potentially assume control of the stadium, or block Cohen’s purchase based on that clause.

“The Mayor has an obligation to the people of New York City to closely examine new leases on culturally important and incredibly valuable city-owned land,” a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio told the Times.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

By signing up, you agree to TheRealDeal Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

The bid could face other headwinds. De Blasio has said that he favored a bid that actor Jennifer Lopez and her husband, Alex Rodriguez, the former baseball player, submitted for the team. The Mets, however, last month opted to go with Cohen’s $2.42 billion bid.

Cohen purchased a $20 million stake in the baseball team in 2012, which Bloomberg valued at $90 million in 2017. Last year, his initial bid fell through over control of the team for an initial five-year period. Months after the deal fell apart in January, the Mets reopened the bidding process.

The current owners, Fred Wilpon, co-founder of development firm Sterling Equities, and Saul Katz, have sought to retain control of the team in the aftermath of the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, which cost the team millions of dollars. Wilpon and Katz were accused of knowledge of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme, or neglecting to understand it — claims which they denied in a 2012 settlement.

[NYT] — Georgia Kromrei