The Mets’ ownership change nearly complete, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio still wants to have a say.
What he wants to say, exactly, depends on who you ask.
The New York Post reported Wednesday night that de Blasio is "trying to kill" the sale of the team to Steve Cohen and he called commissioner Rob Manfred this month to say he opposes the hedge-fund billionaire’s takeover.
Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for de Blasio, said the juiciest part of the story is false.
"The Mayor did call Commissioner Manfred, but the rest of this isn't true," Neidhardt wrote on Twitter. "The NYC Law Dept is doing their due diligence of examining a new lease on incredibly valuable city-owned land. That's what the call was about."
Publicly, de Blasio has not been nearly as harsh as he allegedly has been privately. He said Wednesday morning that the city’s law department is still doing its "due diligence" on the deal and he expects an announcement "at some point in the coming days," reiterating his sentiment from earlier in the week.
Either way, it is not clear that de Blasio legally can do anything about it.
There is a clause in the Citi Field lease between the team and city that says the mayor can step in if the franchise is being sold to a "prohibited person," defined as "any person that has been convicted in a criminal proceeding for a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude or that is an organized crime figure."
That definition does not apply to Cohen. His former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, paid a $1.8 billion fine as a result of an insider-trading investigation. As part of a civil suit from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Cohen was banned from investing others’ money for two years.
The Post, citing "a group of well-connected opponents of the Mets’ sale to Cohen," said the lease extends the prohibited-person definition to include anyone "who controls any person or entity that has been convicted of a felony."
On the baseball side, MLB owners are scheduled to vote on Cohen’s purchase Friday. He is expected to be approved.