Steve Cohen has overcome many obstacles on his road to owning a Major League Baseball team: Four previous failures, the scheming pettiness and antipathy of the current stewards of his favorite team, the lingering shadow of black edge, the betrayal of a dear friend, some #metoo unpleasantness, the hopelessly determined efforts of the owner of one of the league’s less distinguished franchises. Tomorrow, in spite of Jerry Reinsdorf’s best efforts, he’ll almost certainly clear one of the final hurdles when MLB formally approves his $2.475 billion deal for the New York Mets. That leaves one final obstacle, one which on its face may seem the most serious of all, and indeed very likely to see Cohen’s dream crushed for a fifth time.
Luckily for Cohen (and for Mets fans), this final obstacle is a man for whom failure has become a way of life—nay, who has become failure itself, a living embodiment of pathetic bungling and helplessness, utterly incapable of accomplishing even the smallest thing he sets his mind to: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Hizzoner called MLB commissioner Rob Manfred earlier this month and told him outright that he opposed the idea of a hedge-fund billionaire buying a local team and would be using his oversight power of the city’s control of the Citi Field lease to prevent the sale from being finalized…. “The ‘due diligence’ line is bulls–t,” a source familiar with City Hall told The Post. “He’s told [Major League] Baseball he doesn’t want Cohen and he’s told his Law Department to find a way to stop it.”
The Mets’ lease on Citi Field—which sits on city-owned park land—does indeed give City Hall the power to block a sale of the team to “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.” SAC Capital Advisors’ little insider-trading difficulties aside, that would not seem to include Cohen himself. But it’s apparently a bit broader than that.
A group of well-connected opponents of the Mets’ sale to Cohen…. They argue the Citi Field lease gives Hizzoner — a Red Sox fan — a clear right to block the deal, pointing to a provision in the lease that prevents a transaction with a “prohibited person.” A prohibited person includes not just an individual who was convicted of a felony, but anyone “who controls any person or entity that has been convicted of a felony.”
What’s more, Cohen did admit fault—in failing to supervise his insider-traders—in a settlement with the SEC.
That outcome does not make Cohen guilty of any actual crime, but the new interpretation of “prohibited person” could give de Blasio an avenue to block the lease.
And, in the hands of a less incompetent person, that might be a very serious obstacle indeed. But as with everything else, if de Blasio tries it, he’ll almost certainly fuck it up.
“De Blasio can make this ugly and he can even try to stop it,” said one lawyer with knowledge of the situation. “But he has no real standing, and Cohen will sue him. And Cohen will win.”
Bill de Blasio is trying to kill Mets sale to Steve Cohen [Thornton/N.Y. Post]