Instead of getting out to vote, MLB’s owners will stay in and cast their ballots on a video call Friday.
Steve Cohen needs 22 of those 29 votes — which excludes the one that will be cast in his favor by the franchise over which he is attempting to gain control — to move on the cusp of becoming the Mets’ new principal owner. That vote is predicated upon an executive council consisting of eight owners first giving approval for Cohen’s candidacy to move before the general membership. There is a strong expectation within the industry the 64-year-old Cohen will receive the necessary votes on both fronts.
But what should be a coronation won’t become official until mayor Bill de Blasio approves the transaction, as he searches for loopholes that could potentially kill the $2.4 billion deal between the hedge-fund maven and team owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.
As The Post reported on Wednesday, de Blasio has told MLB he will do everything he can to prevent Cohen from taking control of the team. A clause in Citi Field’s lease with the city gives the mayor a voice in the matter.
Cohen already has been approved by MLB’s ownership committee, chaired by the Phillies’ John Middleton. The executive council that will first vote on Cohen’s candidacy includes four NL and four AL owners.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a known Cohen opponent and has tried to block his purchase of the club. But sources said it was unlikely Reinsdorf would rally enough other “no” votes to thwart the deal.
As much as de Blasio might want the deal killed as part of a continued campaign against billionaires, multiple law firms hired by the Mets determined any such blockade would be without legal standing. Language in the Citi Field lease with the city precluded a person who “has been convicted in a criminal proceeding for a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude or is an organized crime figure” from leasing the ballpark.
Among the issues facing Cohen is the fact his former hedge fund, S.A.C Capital Advisors, pled guilty to insider trader charges and was fined $1.8 billion. Cohen was reprimanded by the SEC and received a two-year ban from managing outside money. Cohen’s firm, Point72, faced a gender discrimination lawsuit from a female employee that alleged unfair pay practices and a sexist work environment. That case was settled out of court.
On Thursday, the mayor said Cohen’s potential approval was still under legal review.
“It’s our land,” de Blasio said. “There is a legal requirement that if there is an ownership change it has to be evaluated. Our law department is doing that evaluation based on the law.”
De Blasio would not comment directly on Cohen.
“When we’re in the middle of a legal review, which again is our fiduciary responsibility of the city to do this, it’s not appropriate to be commenting on the people involved,” the mayor said.
Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan who grew up on Long Island, has been a minority partner in the team since 2012. Under terms of the deal, he will assume a 95 percent ownership stake in the club, with Wilpon and Katz maintaining control of SNY.
In an attempt to build credibility within baseball, Cohen last month announced his intention to install Sandy Alderson as the team president should MLB owners approve the deal. Alderson, 73, served as Mets general manager for 7 ½ years and is a well-respected presence as an executive and former administrator within the Commissioner’s Office.
Cohen, with his estimated net worth of $14 billion, would become baseball’s wealthiest owner, putting the Mets in position to pursue top talent after years of fiscal restraint under Wilpon and Katz. Cohen is also expected to rebuild an infrastructure sorely in need of technological and analytical advances.
— Additional reporting by Julia Marsh