Lest anyone believe that Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz’ 2012 settlement with Bernie Madoff trustee Irving Picard was the last we’d hear of Mets ownership’s ties to a sneaky wheeler-dealer, think again. On Monday, Mets minority investor Steve Cohen‘s SAC Capital Advisors plead guilty to federal insider trading charges and agreed to pay a record $1.8 billion in fines. Cohen, who invested $20 million in the Mets last year, in unlikely to leave the ownership group in the near future writes the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir :
Should Wilpon and Katz — or Major League Baseball — push Cohen to sell his sliver of the Mets? Fay Vincent, a former baseball commissioner who is a securities lawyer, said of Cohen: “Don’t forget, there’s a big difference between the company being charged criminally and he being charged. At this moment, he hasn’t been nicked.”
But, he added: “Generally speaking, people in these situations come forward and say to the company: ‘What do you want me to do? I don’t want to embarrass you. You’ve got plenty of troubles as it is.’ And many times, the individual will leave.”
That may not be so easy at Citi Field. The limited partners have agreed not to sell their shares for three years — or until around March 2015 — and to offer them to existing partners first. Given the debt-filled recent history of the Mets, it is unlikely that Wilpon has $20 million lying around to return to Cohen as the team seeks, in the weeks ahead, to sign some free agents with the money now coming off its payroll. Other minority partners, like the comedian Bill Maher, may not be willing to finance Cohen’s exit.
And if his stake were then offered to outside bidders, how many people these days want to invest tens of millions in the Mets?