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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two hedge fund managers among 3 Mets finalists

Wilpon could relinquish greater percentage of ownership after 1 year. "For weeks, Steven A. Cohen, the billionaire hedge fund manager, has been a mysterious figure in the drama of the Mets, and their financially and legally beleaguered owners. Several people with knowledge of the situation said the team’s owners, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, approached Cohen close to a year ago, seeking an infusion of cash and offering a portion of the club. The Mets denied it. Cohen’s representatives gave conflicting accounts. The notion, if ever true, seemed dead....

In rather urgent need of $200 million, and willing to sell a substantial interest in their once off-limits franchise, Wilpon and Katz, after soliciting a range of bids, have narrowed their list of potential partners to three. And according to people with knowledge of the negotiations, Cohen is again in the mix,

  • perhaps even the preferred bidder.

The Mets, this time, will not comment at all. A spokesman for Cohen, asked directly if Cohen was a finalist for a piece of the team, said,

  • “No comment.”

It surprises no one that Cohen, with a net worth valued at $8 billion, might be interested in the Mets. It is of some surprise to people who know him that he might be seriously interested in a minority stake, one that would not give him control over the team’s operations and finances and performance. And it is completely in keeping with his custom to have zero interest in revealing his hand.

Cohen, who was born in Great Neck, N.Y., and Katz have a charitable connection. Katz is a former chairman and current executive committee member of the board of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System — to which Cohen and his wife, Alexandra, donated $50 million last year to fund pediatric care.

Cohen’s inclusion in the group of finalists bidding for the Mets would mean that he was persuaded to alter his insistence on some measure of control — or envisions a future route to control. Katz and Wilpon have told all bidders they will not sell more than 49 percent of the team and no part of their two-thirds stake in the SNY cable network for at least a year. Bidders have coveted a piece of SNY because its profits could offset team losses that rose to

  • about $50 million last season.

Cohen’s competitors include a group formed by Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of Skybridge Capital, a hedge-fund firm, and James McCann, the founder of 1-800-Flowers.com, a Mets sponsor, according to a person briefed on the matter. The two visited Fred Wilpon in spring training

  • last month at Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Out of the bidding is an investment group formed by David Heller, a Goldman Sachs executive, and Marc Spilker, president of Apollo Global Management, and another comprised of Leo Hindery, a media investor, and Marc Utay, managing partner of Clarion Capital, a private equity firm. The status of a third syndicate, led by Steven Starker, a co-founder of BTIG, a global trading firm, could not be confirmed.

Cohen runs SAC Capital Advisors, a powerful $12 billion hedge fund headquartered in Stamford, Conn. He has posted some of the best investment performances on Wall Street, generating annualized returns of about

  • 30 percent over nearly two decades....

SAC has been touched by the government’s widespread crackdown into insider trading at hedge funds. Last November, SAC received a subpoena as part of the investigation. In February, federal prosecutors announced insider trading charges against two former SAC portfolio managers. One has pleaded guilty to criminal charges and is cooperating with the government’s investigation. Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for the firm, has said the firm is outraged by the alleged

  • actions of the former employees."...

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