Investors who bailed out the Mets in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal are about to make a killing now that billionaire Steve Cohen has taken over, The Post has learned. Cohen’s $2.4 billion
Investors who bailed out the Mets in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal are about to make a killing now that billionaire Steve Cohen has taken over, The Post has learned.
Cohen’s $2.4 billion deal to buy the Amazin’s closed on Nov. 6, putting minority investors including comedian Bill Maher, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and venture capitalist Ken Lerer on track to be paid roughly three times what they forked over in 2012 to provide the Wilpon family with a much-needed cash infusion, sources said.
“Investing in the Wilpons got scary for a while there, so they’re thrilled to get paid out like this by one of their own,” a source familiar with the team’s financials said. “The guys who bought in for $20 million are going to walk away very happy.”
Scaramucci declined to comment. Maher and Lerer didn’t return requests for comment. But all three men are members of groups of investors that agreed to pay $20 million in 2012 for 4 percent stakes at a time when the Wilpons were facing a towering debt load of more than $500 million, including the $162 million they agreed to pay to put the Madoff nightmare behind them.
The investments helped keep the franchise afloat, and the MLB team was valued at $719 million, including debt, shortly thereafter. But the team is now worth closer to four times that amount thanks to Cohen’s deal to purchase a 95 percent stake for $2.4 billion.
Returns to investors will be slightly lower because it will exclude costs, including roughly $350 million in remaining debt. Other costs that are expected to eat into sale returns include the $15 million the limited partners were forced to fork over this summer when the Wilpons called on them for capital to offset the impact of the coronavirus slamming ticket sales and shortening the season.
Still, bailout investors now stand to divvy up payouts of roughly $60 million each, for a profit of $40 million, in just eight years, which no-one thought possible at the time, sources said.
“I thought everyone who bought into the Mets back in 2012 was burning their money just to tell everyone they owned the Mets,” one sports banker said. “I looked right for a few years, but today I eat crow on that one.”
Indeed, in 2012 it was widely believed that the Wilpons would have to sell the team. They maintained control by luring minority investors with sweet terms that included guaranteed compounding interest and protection from any capital calls for six years. Cohen was among these investors, buying an 8 percent by himself, while the other stakes were gobbled up by groups that cobbled together $20 million to own fractions of a share.
By 2018, when the compounding interest clause expired, some limited partners jumped at the chance to sell their stakes as the team’s financial situation remained poor. But the groups that included Maher, Lerer and Scaramucci stuck it out, holding onto their shares in the team.
Of course, sources cautioned that any payments could be on hold until Cohen and the Mets finalize all sale details, including messy minor league ownership issues and the outstanding debt.
Cohen appears to be moving quickly to make the transition complete, however, including cleaning out the team’s front office, re-upping a star pitcher and giving a press conference on Tuesday that delighted fans and the media.
“Steve is taking care of business,” said the insider. “Those big checks will get cut pretty soon.”