IT RE­ALLY HAP­PENED!

Mets fans can shift at­ten­tion from slug­gish play­off fight to fu­ture un­der Co­hen

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - DEESHA THOSAR

Mets fans, puffy-eyed and groggy, may still be wak­ing up with a mild hang­over af­ter Mon­day night’s eu­phoric cel­e­bra­tions. Yes, the team is five games un­der .500 and two games back of a play­off spot. Sure, it’s likely the Mets will miss the post­sea­son for the 17th time in the past 20 years. But a deeply loyal fan­base that typ­i­cally nurses a sea­sonal sad­ness, like clock­work, won’t grieve this year.

Bet­ter days are ahead thanks to the next nine words: Steve Co­hen per­se­vered and, in the end, he won.

Hedge-fund fat cat Steve Co­hen reached a deal on Mon­day to buy the Mets for the high­est price ever paid for an Amer­i­can sports fran­chise.

The agree­ment val­ues the team for roughly $2.4 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to sources with knowl­edge of the trans­ac­tion. Co­hen is set to own 95% of the Mets, which will make him ac­count­able to

MLB for the op­er­a­tions of the team.

Co­hen’s re­ported $14 bil­lion net worth can take the lov­able losers to new heights. The 64-year-old is a mover and shaker who’s back­ground in an­a­lyt­ics can as­sem­ble a mod­ern front-of­fice with lim­it­less re­sources. Co­hen is a known in­ven­tor and his de­vice-ful mind is ex­pected to re­shape the Mets for years to come.

Let’s hit the breaks for a mo­ment. What about the own­ers’ vote? Co­hen still needs ap­proval from 23 of 29 MLB own­ers, which is ex­pected to go his way dur­ing their an­nual meet­ing in Novem­ber for one pri­mary rea­son: a ris­ing tide lifts all boats. MLB own­ers want Co­hen to im­prove their over­all cap­i­tal and ad­van­ta­geously im­pact their fran­chise val­ues.

Own­ers cer­tainly pre­fer Co­hen over an ad­mit­ted cheater who warred with and sued Ma­jor League Base­ball over his dop­ing sus­pen­sion.

Alex Ro­driguez had an ally in Jeff Wilpon un­til the very end. Jeff Wilpon des­per­ately wanted the group led by A-Rod and Jen­nifer Lopez to take over be­cause the cou­ple, un­like Co­hen, would have let him have an ac­tive role in the team. Right up un­til Mon­day evening, when Ster­ling Part­ners an­nounced Co­hen would pur­chase the Mets, Jeff Wilpon was the one prop­ping up A-Rod in ex­change for keep­ing a hand in op­er­a­tions. The Ro­driguez-Lopez group sim­ply did not have enough money to top Co­hen.

Un­der the orig­i­nal ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Co­hen and Ster­ling Equities, an­nounced in De­cem­ber, Fred and Jeff Wilpon would have kept their ti­tles and re­mained in con­trol of team op­er­a­tions for five more years. That deal fell apart in Jan­uary and Co­hen of­fi­cially re-en­tered the bid­ding in July.

Mets fans need not be wor­ried about the Wilpon/Katz fam­i­lies re­tain­ing 5% own­er­ship in the Mets af­ter Co­hen is the con­trol per­son. Fred and Jeff Wilpon will not be in­volved in day-to-day op­er­a­tions and will have no say in any­thing, though it’s plau­si­ble Co­hen will still al­low Jeff to use the ex­ec­u­tive wash­room.

It is still un­clear how much debt Co­hen will be in­her­it­ing from the Wilpons. The Mets were es­ti­mated to be in $90100 mil­lion in debt be­fore the pan­demic, and that num­ber has likely dou­bled with­out ticket rev­enue and the ex­penses in­volved with play­ing base­ball this year. The Wilpons are re­port­edly los­ing up­wards of mil­lions of dol­lars

per year, due in part to their pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment in Bernie Mad­off ’s Ponzi scheme.

Co­hen, too, has a messy past and it’s fair to won­der whether his dirt­ied hands will trickle into his own­er­ship of the Mets.

He crossed the line mul­ti­ple times, once by plead­ing guilty to in­sider trad­ing with his pre­vi­ous hedge fund S.A.C. Cap­i­tal. The firm agreed to pay nearly $2 bil­lion and though Co­hen was ac­cused, he was never of­fi­cially charged with any wrong­do­ing. He laid low for two years, then founded the hedge fund Point72 As­set Man­age­ment, which was later ac­cused of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion against women.

But for commission­er Rob Man­fred, who rep­re­sents all 30 own­ers, dirt­ied hands can al­ways be over­looked.

“I think that a change in own­er­ship at the Mets is an op­por­tu­nity to make that fran­chise as strong as it can pos­si­bly be,” Man­fred said Mon­day at an on­line event hosted by Hof­s­tra Univer­sity. “And I think over the long haul it’ll be some­thing that will be good for the game.”

Co­hen has the au­thor­ity and cash to make the Mets, and in turn other MLB teams, the strong­est they have ever been. The Mets’ cur­rent re­al­ity, clum­sily push­ing for one of the last play­off spots, hardly mat­ters. It ’s just moon­shine and glee from here on out.

DAILY NEWS & AP PHO­TOS

Mets fans seem uni­ver­sally happy af­ter Steve Co­hen (above) agrees to deal to buy team from Wilpons, pend­ing vote from own­ers that is ex­pected in com­ing weeks.

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