SportsNet NY called key in Mets deal

While his lookalike, Gary Cohen, is seen on

While his lookalike, Gary Cohen, is seen on SNY covering the Mets. (Credit: Handout)

Officially, the Wilpon family's roughly two-thirds stake in SportsNet New York is not for sale.

Unofficially, experts following the Wilpons' exploration into selling a piece of the Mets believe it will be difficult to get top dollar without including the profitable regional sports network, or perhaps an interest in Citi Field.

"There is no chance I would buy into the Mets without SNY - none, zero, zip - it just wouldn't happen," said Michael Cramer, formerly president and minority owner of the Texas Rangers and currently director of the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas.

What is not clear is whether Sterling Entertainment Enterprises can sell part of its stake in SNY without giving first crack to the two cable giants that are minority shareholders, or without answering to lenders who could be first in line for any proceeds. Between them, Time Warner and Comcast own about a third of the network.

It is not unusual that SNY is considered more valuable and profitable than the Mets themselves. The same is true of YES and the Yankees; YES could be worth more than $3 billion, two or three times the value of the Yankees, who own about a third of the network.

"I'd be surprised at the end of the day if the other core assets are not included in some manner,'' said Marc Ganis, president of the consulting firm SportsCorp.

SNY is believed to take in more than $300 million per year in fees from cable, satellite and phone company providers even before selling ads.

Passing on that sort of guaranteed revenue is why many wonder what, other than vanity, would entice a deep-pocketed business person to pay $200 million or so for 20 to 25 percent of the team alone.

One reason would be the right to buy controlling interest in the future, but the Wilpons have said they do not plan to give that up. Absent that or a piece of SNY or Citi Field, a deal would amount to "a $200-million season ticket and a parking pass,'' as Robert Boland, an NYU professor of sports management, put it.

"A non-majority share,'' Boland added, "is really at the end of the day worthless.''

Joel Evans, a professor at Hofstra's Zarb School of Business, agreed SNY would sweeten the pot considerably. But that doesn't mean without it there would be no qualified buyer; it just might mean the buyer would pay less than what the Wilpons want or need.

"Somebody out there is going to buy it,'' Evans said. "But I do believe they're going to look for a bargain.''

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