The New York Mets are scheduled to begin their truncated 2020 season Friday night but the more exciting action may be in the team’s executive suite as the current owners, the Wilpon family, have announced their intention to sell their equity stake. The tony investment banking firm, Allen & Co, has been retained by them and they’ve narrowed the potential buyers to three entities.
The strong favorite is the man who thought he had a deal to buy the Mets in early 2020 before negotiations broke down, hedge fund entrepreneur Steven Cohen. It’s estimated he is worth $13 billion and the conventional wisdom is if it comes down to who makes the highest bid he will emerge victorious.
He has a few blemishes however. In 2012 he was implicated in an insider trading scandal. He wasn’t charged with a felony but he did pay a hefty civil fine. Others at his firm, S.A.C Capital Advisors, were criminally charged and convicted. Given the Wilpons’ embarrassing involvement with Bernie Madoff, selling their majority stake to Cohen, who is already a minority owner with the team, wouldn’t be good optics. State senator Jessica Ramos, who represents in Albany the district where Citi Field is located, wrote an op-ed in Friday’s New York Daily News stating exactly that.
Fred Wilpon’s fellow MLB owners, who have to give their blessing for the sale to go through, may also be concerned about these things. They also worry Cohen may go on a free agent spending spree if he got control of the Mets.
The bidding group which not surprisingly has attracted the most buzz is that publicly headed by Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez and a host of current and former professional athletes. The money folks behind them include the owner of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, Vincent Viola, and Vitaminwater co-founder, Middle Village native son Mike Repole.
Repole owns a number of thoroughbreds and when I chatted with him at a Belmont Stakes press event a couple of years ago he told me he had no interest in owning the Mets even though he was a huge fan.
The problem is who will really run things when you have so many boldfaced names involved? Another issue is whether they collectively have enough capital to meet a multibillion dollar asking price.
The third group, which is certainly the most low-key, consists of the tandem of financiers Josh Harris and David Blitzer who together own the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
Harris has shown to be a hands-on owner as he transformed the Sixers from being a longtime NBA joke to a perennial title contender. He also had the temerity to fire longtime Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello in spite of his three Stanley Cup rings. In my opinion he dismissed Lou because he couldn’t care less about the team’s revenue streams and its lack of media coverage.
Last week the New York Post reported Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was part of the Harris-Blitzer team but he quickly denied it.
The Philadelphia Phillies broadcast all of their intrasquad games from their home field, Citizens Bank Park, on Facebook Live. It was a chance for the team to give its sportscasters an opportunity to get sharp behind a microphone after a long layoff.
On Friday, the Phillies paired former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. with play-by-play guy Gregg Murphy. When a hitter placed a foul ball in the stands, Murphy wondered aloud who would collect those traditional fan souvenirs since spectators are banned for the 2020 season because of the pandemic.
Amaro, who was dismissed as an assistant Mets GM by his fellow Stanford alum, Brodie Van Wagenen, at the end of last season, didn’t miss a beat. “I’m looking for a job so the Phillies should contact me!” he replied with a chuckle.
The Mets used Facebook Live for an intrasquad game last Thursday. Rather than utilizing the familiar voices of Gary Cohen or Howie Rose, the Mets allowed one of their in-game hosts, Mike Janela, to call the action by himself and he was a very pleasant and informative listen. If he was nervous, which would be completely understandable, he didn’t show it. An in-game host is someone who entertains the crowd between innings by conducting interactive fan events such as the relay race or wiffle t-ball home run hitting contest.
NBC Universal launched its Peacock streaming service last Wednesday.
The good news is that it’s free and has a lot of content. You can watch some great comedy that is no longer on linear television such as “AP Bio” and the full season of “Sunnyside,” which NBC foolishly yanked after just 4 episodes. You can even watch reruns of the beloved baby boomer comedy. “The Munsters” which starred Fred Gwynne, Yvonne DeCarlo, and “Grandpa” Al Lewis.
The bad news is that it doesn’t stream on older devices for some reason. I couldn’t get it to stream on my desktop computer which I have had for a few years but I had no problem watching Peacock on my new laptop. The entertainment trade publications reported this was a common problem.