Another day, another attempt by the cash-strapped billionaire Wilpon family to sell New York’s Mets. The Wilpons, who lost untold monies to Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme, have evidently resolved to sell the Mets before the end of 2020, and the process is heating up. Three groups of competing bidders have advanced beyond preliminary stages.
Billionaire financier and seemingly perennial securities fraud suspect Steve Cohen may not have been able to buy the Mets last year, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying. Cohen has submitted a massive bid of $2 billion for the Metropolitans, enough to advance to the second round of the sale. Cohen, of course, has an uncomfortable parallel to Jeffrey Loria and seems most interested in the Mets as an asset-stripping investment. Fortunately for Mets fans, however, Cohen, isn’t alone in the second-round bidding; at least two other groups are also in the running.
The second is the star-studded offer from megastar entrepreneur and entertainer Jennifer Lopez and her partner (in both life and business), fourteen-time All-Star slugger Alex Rodriguez. Uberwealthy though the power couple may be, even they can’t afford such a purchase themselves. As such, they’ve assembled financing from, among other places, athletes in other professional sports. Per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure:
Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, Super Bowl champion Travis Kelce and 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray are part of a group of investors who have joined power couple Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez in a bid to buy the New York Mets.
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Rodriguez, who last starred with the Yankees, and fiancée Lopez have put $300 million of their own money toward the bid. Other investors include future Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe Thomas, who spent his entire career with the Cleveland Browns, two-time NBA All-Star Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards, and Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee.
The idea of a group of professional athletes owning a Major League Baseball team is intriguing - and not just because of the star potential for such a group. Yes, Magic Johnson is the face of the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group, but the money there was largely provided by the Guggenheim partners investment firm.
Notably, Lopez is one of the better and shrewder entrepreneurs anywhere, and she would likely be the wealthiest investor in the group. Nevertheless, professional athletes would be providing what appears to be at least a significant portion of the funds. As such, it’s fascinating to consider whether players as owners would change how a front office operates. Would they continue the dehumanizing thinking of players as assets? Would they be more player-focused? The reality is that we just don’t know. That said, Lopez, one of the best investors around, would likely not be interested in buying a baseball team were it the unprofitable venture MLB owners would have us believe.
The third group is headed by Philadelphia 76ers owner and billionaire Josh Harris, who has teamed up with New Jersey Devils owner David Blitzer. Despite the geographical rivalry, the Harris/Blitzer duo is, to me, the most likely victor of the bidding, despite offering less money (thus far) than either Cohen or the Lopez/Rodriguez group. That’s because they lack Cohen’s baggage and also aren’t players. In fact, Harris became famous for his years of tanking the 76ers, including spending millions of dollars below the league’s salary floor, a tactic with which baseball fans are now all too familiar.
MLB owners may well view in Harris a kindred spirit, and a far surer thing than a group that includes a number of professional athletes and talent. If MLB owners are looking for someone most likely to share their ideals without a great deal of legal controversy, Harris and Blitzer are their best option.