The race to buy the Mets is down to three … or four … or maybe just one.
The Post confirmed reports that at least three groups are moving on to a second round of bidding on the Mets, and that rumors persist of a mysterious fourth bidder actively engaged in the process. What is also clear is that hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen remains the leading contender in the process due to his deeper pockets and even deeper understanding of the franchise’s woeful financial picture, advantages that might weaken interest in a bidding war for the team.
In addition to Cohen, Sportico is reporting that groups led by private equity titans Josh Harris and David Blitzer, and an ever-growing group led by Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez will remain in contention to buy the Mets from the Wilpon family. The Post also confirmed that all three bids are in the neighborhood of $2 billion, with Cohen bidding exactly that figure.
Whispers of a fourth mystery buyer persist, but insiders tell The Post that the notion of a person or group with the ability to pony up $2 billion or more going unknown at this point seems farfetched.
“Maybe there is another mystery bidder,” one source involved in the process told The Post. “But it’s more likely that this is just an attempt to keep Steve Cohen on his toes.”
Keeping the 64-year-old Cohen on his toes is something the Mets and other bidders might find easier said than done due to Cohen being willing to pay cash while the other groups might borrow some or all of MLB’s $400 million limit to buy the team.
That said, Harris is worth $5 billion and Blitzer $1.5 billion, while Vincent Viola — who has joined up with the J-Rod bid — is worth about $5 billion, so there is liquidity out there to start a hypothetical bidding war with Cohen if those players decide to get competitive.
What might keep that war from happening however is the fact that Round 2 includes the Wilpons giving bidders a deeper look at the team’s finances before they prepare a possibly higher bid.
Cohen got a deep look at those numbers before his $2.6 billion bid imploded in February, and insiders say that what he saw gives him the keenest valuation of the team.
“Cohen was not happy with their finances back in February,” one sports banker told The Post. “He knows that bids won’t be going much higher when the other guys get a look. … And remember, he was unhappy with their numbers pre-COVID.”
Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and who made unsuccessful bids for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, told The Post that A-Rod approached him about joining his bidding group but he passed, declining to provide more specifics.
The other rumor circulating around the sales process is that the Wilpons will need a backup bidder should Cohen fail to get approved by MLB ownership. Multiple sources tell The Post that the only hiccup Cohen would face has nothing to do with his 2016 SEC settlement and everything to do with other owners being concerned that a new owner with $13 billion might complicate the league’s upcoming collective bargaining agreement.
“They probably would need to get some assurances that he would play fair on salaries,” said one baseball insider. A person familiar with the approval process described Cohen’s chances as “Not a slam dunk, but I do think he’d be approved.”
As The Post has reported, the Wilpons are not taking bids on their revenue-producing cable network SNY, but only on the money-losing, debt-saddled team. Rumors have circulated that Cohen had bid $2 billion for SNY, but sources close to the billionaire trader refused to back those claims.
Additionally, sources familiar with the network’s finances peg the value of SNY at well below $2 billion thanks to some debt problems of its own.