SportsNet New York, the television home of Mets games since its launch in 2006, will not change hands as part of the Wilpon family’s pending sale of most of the Mets to hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, sources said Thursday.
Through their Sterling business entities, Mets owner/chief executive officer Fred Wilpon and relatives own a controlling interest in SNY. It is possible they also pursue a sale of their stake in the network, but that would be separate from their negotiations with Cohen, a minority owner who will become the Mets’ majority owner if the deal is finalized.
In theory, having different ownership for the team and its flagship network could make future rights negotiations more complex, but that matter will not be relevant any time soon. SNY’s current deal to carry Mets games is believed to extend at least into the 2030s, a source said.
For major-league teams, regional sports networks are a primary source of revenue through broadcast rights contracts — and that is even more true when the team owns all or part of that network, as has been the case for the Mets. A network sometimes is more valuable than the franchise itself.
Because the Cohen Mets wouldn't own SNY, the franchise won’t benefit from that particular revenue to the same degree that the Wilpon Mets have. But it might not matter. Bloomberg estimates Cohen’s net worth at $9.2 billion, which would make him the richest individual owner in baseball.
Sterling and Cohen, a Great Neck native who runs the Connecticut-based hedge fund Point72 Asset Management, announced Cohen’s increased investment Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal, Fred Wilpon and his son, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, will retain their titles for five years — an unorthodox arrangement, many of the specifics of which are not clear yet.
After that five-year window, a source said, Cohen will take over the role of “control person” — the top executive and decision-maker in the eyes of Major League Baseball — from Fred Wilpon.
Cohen’s ownership will need to be approved by a three-quarters majority of the other 29 major-league owners, but that vote is not imminent. The vote for approval typically does not happen until the incoming owner is put forth as the new control person — which, under the current parameters, would not happen until after the 2024 season.
With Neil Best and David Lennon