The bid by Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez to purchase the Mets has received a local boost: Nassau County resident and Vitaminwater co-founder Mike Repole and multibillionaire Brooklyn native Vinnie Viola, sources confirmed to Newsday on Monday.
Repole and Viola are planning to contribute up to a combined $250 million, a source said.
The would-be ownership group now includes the celebrity couple, Repole and Viola, plus whomever JPMorgan Chase has recruited. Rodriguez and Lopez, who have been trying to put together a bid for months, enlisted the bank’s help to raise money.
Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, the son of chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon, has told people they are hoping to close on a deal by the end of 2020, according to a person familiar with the process. The team’s financial situation, said to be poor to begin with, only has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic as MLB has struggled to get its season off the ground.
The Mets have been for sale since February, when a deal with hedge-fund boss Steve Cohen — which would have valued the franchise at a baseball-record $2.6 billion — fell apart. It is not clear what price the Mets will fetch now, but nobody with any knowledge of the subject expects it to be anywhere near what Cohen was willing to pay.
Any sale of the Mets still does not include any portion of SNY, a source said. A lack of SNY’s inclusion was one of the reasons (along with the question of who would control the team) that the Cohen deal collapsed.
Repole and Viola, who made his fortune in the financial world and owns the NHL’s Florida Panthers, are represented by prominent sports banker Salvatore Galatioto and his firm, Galatioto Sports Partners. Galatioto’s involvement brings an air of legitimacy to A-Rod’s effort. He has brokered the sale of many pro sports teams, including the Chicago Cubs, Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers.
Repole’s involvement was first reported by The Action Network, a sports gambling website. Fox Business Network first mentioned Viola.
A Queens native, St. John’s graduate and lifelong Mets fan — and former longtime season-ticket holder — Repole has been here before. In 2011, he expressed interest in buying a portion of the Mets when the Wilpons were seeking investors in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal.
“Under other circumstances, I might be interested,” he told Newsday at the time.
Nearly a decade later, teaming up with Rodriguez and Lopez might be the right other circumstances.
Repole and Viola are friends from the horse racing world.
Repole, who started sports drink brands Vitaminwater and Bodyarmor, opened Repole Stable after selling Vitaminwater’s parent company, Glaceau, to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007. His most famous horse is Uncle Mo, a onetime Kentucky Derby favorite who sired Nyquist, the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner.
Viola’s Always Dreaming won the Kentucky Derby in 2017. On Saturday, his Dr Post finished second at the Belmont Stakes.
Jeff Wilpon said recently that the Mets have “four or five suitors,” double what was publicly known.
Competing with the A-Rod group are Josh Harris and David Blitzer, owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. They recently bought a small stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, adding football to a pro sports portfolio that also includes soccer (Crystal Palace FC of the English Premier League).
But that transaction does not affect Harris and Blitzer’s interest in the Mets, a source said. The Steelers deal closed in January, though it was not reported until last week.
Lurking in the background is Cohen, a Great Neck native whose financial might and net worth — estimated between $9 billion and $14 billion — is greater than that of anyone else linked to the Mets’ sale process.
Cohen has been a minority owner of the Mets since 2012. In February, before the pandemic shut down the sports world, he said, “As an 8% holder I’m looking forward to a higher bid for the team.”
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