There might be another sizable hurdle laying in the way of Steve Cohen’s takeover of the New York Mets — and it has nothing to do with anyone in Major League Baseball.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reported on Wednesday that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio could unravel Cohen’s final approach toward a 95% majority stake of the Mets. According to the 2006 Stadium Lease Agreement between the New York City Industrial Development Agency and Queens Ballpark Company, the city can deny the transferral of the Mets and Citi Field to a person who has committed a felony.
Cohen has never even been charged with a crime, but his former hedge-fund company, S.A.C. Capital Investors, pleaded guilty to securities fraud and wire fraud in 2013, agreeing to pay $1.8 billion in fines.
Per Nightengale, Cohen is “technically classified as a ‘prohibited person,’’ which the agreement defines as ‘any person that has been convicted in a criminal proceeding for a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude.'”
Should de Blasio deem Cohen unfit to take over the Mets, the Wilpon family would then have to re-open the bidding process — which would open the door for the lurking group headlined by Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez to have another go at the club.
Nightengale’s report comes just one day after amNewYork Metro confirmed Sportico’s initial report that Cohen was approved by an MLB ownership committee of eight owners. The 7-1 vote was the perceived first step in a three-step process that would conclude with the approval from the commissioner’s executive council and the final vote among the remaining 29 club owners. Cohen needs a total of 23 approval votes out of 30 to gain final acceptance from MLB.
It is important to note that Nightengale’s report is steeped in plenty of speculation, but it’s still a worrying possibility for those pulling for a Cohen takeover.
“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,” press secretary Bill Neidhardt reiterated to amNewYork Metro.
Cohen successfully negotiated his takeover of the Mets last month, buying his majority share for $2.475 billion.