Steven Cohen

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Note: This page is for major league owner Steven Cohen; for the scout with a similar name, click here.

Steven A. Cohen

Biographical Information[edit]

Steven Cohen is a billionaire hedge fund financier who became a minority owner of the New York Mets in 2012 and agreed to buy the team from Fred Wilpon and his family, including brother-in-law Saul Katz, on September 14, 2020 for an approximate $2.4 billion. The sale was approved by Major League Baseball's ownership committee on October 20th, now needing ratification by a qualified majority of other owners, something which happened on October 30th. However, there was one final hurdle to clear, as with the Mets' ballpark Citi Field built on public land owned by the City of New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio had the right to veto a sale 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." Given the Wilpons' well-documented problems with the law in recent years, this was not something the mayor was taking lightly, and Cohen's own less-than-spotless record in his days as a trader was now under scrutiny. That review was completed only an hour after the sale's approval by owners, with the city not raising any objections, thus completing the process.

Cohen was born in a Jewish family on Long Island, NY and studied economics at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation in 1978, he became a junior trader on Wall Street and was very successful, eventually graduating to managing a portfolio worth $75 million. In 1992, he founded his own company, S.A.C. Capital Advisors, which within a decade became one of the largest hedge funds on Wall Street. He was at first famous for rapid fire trading, never holding on to any assets for long, but that changed as his firm became bigger. By 2009, his company's worth was estimated at $14 billion.

Starting in 2012, the company was the target a massive investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission based on allegations of insider trading. The investigation resulted in the conviction of a senior trader while S.A.C. pleaded guilty to insider trading charges in 2013 and was assessed penalties of $1.8 billion. Somehow, Cohen managed to escape criminal charges, but a civil case was brought against him for having failed to supervise his trader properly. The case was settled in 2016, with Cohen being prohibited from managing outsiders' money for two years. In spite of this, his personal fortune was estimated in 2016 to be $30 billion.

In 2012, he became a minority owner of the Mets, buying an 8% share for $20 million when the Wilpons needed to bring in outside capital after agreeing to pay a huge settlement to the victims of crooked financier Bernie Madoff, from whose Ponzi scheme they had benefited. Without such a life line, they would likely have been forced to sell the team at that point. When they did decide to sell in 2019, Cohen immediately became the leading contender to buy the Mets. They had reached a tentative deal by November, but it fell apart when the Wilpons insisted on continuing to run the team for a period of five years following the sale. Other groups expressed an interest, including one led by former star player Alex Rodriguez and his wife, actress Jennifer Lopez, but in the end it was Cohen who made the winning bid, and this time there were no strings attached, apart from the Wilpons and Katz retaining a 5% minority interest. The $2.4 billion amount was the highest price paid for the sale of a North American sports franchise, besting the $2.35 billion paid for the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA the previous year. In baseball terms, the previous record was the $2.1 billion for the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012.

A few hours after the sale of the Mets was officially completed on November 6th, Cohen cleaned house in the front office, firing General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen and his main acolytes, Omar Minaya, Allard Baird, Adam Guttridge and Jared Banner. However, his first hire, GM Jared Porter had to quickly be fired when unsavory information about his treatment of women in the past emerged. The Mets got off to a good start in 2021, leading their division for most of the first half, but they began to slide in late July and August on the crest of a huge wave of injuries, Cohen quickly showed that he had little more patience than George Steinbrenner. On August 18th, in the midst of a losing streak, he sent out a message on Twitter berating the team's hitters for their lack of production. Shortly thereafter, he held a charity event at his mansion, attended by Zack Scott, the person who had succeeded the disgraced Porter on an interim basis as GM. Following the function, Scott was found by police asleep behind the wheel of his car and under the influence, which led in turn to his resignation. The saga hopefully ended with the hiring of a veteran baseball man as the new GM in Billy Eppler on November 18th.

He reportedly owns one of the largest private art collection in the world, whose value is estimated at over $1 billion and includes works by Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Anthony DiComo: "Sterling Partners, Cohen agree to Mets sale", mlb.com, September 14, 2020. [1]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Mets' sale to Steve Cohen still has one hurdle to clear: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio", USA Today, October 21, 2020. [2]
  • Bob Nightengale: "New owner Steve Cohen gives Mets fans something to celebrate", USA Today, November 10, 2020. [3]
  • Taylor Nicole Rogers: "Meet Steve Cohen, the hedge-fund billionaire who is in talks to buy the Mets for $2.6 billion and owns mansions across some of America's swankiest ZIP codes", Business Insider, December 6, 2019. [4]
  • Justin Toscano: "MLB owners approve Steve Cohen as new New York Mets owner", USA Today, October 30, 2020. [5]

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