More than $593 million in outstanding bonds used to build Citi Field are under consideration for a ratings upgrade, according to Moody’s Investor Service, one of the three major municipal bond ratings agencies. The main reason: Steve Cohen himself.
“The review for upgrade is based on the credit benefits of the recent sale of the New York Mets to Steven Cohen, resulting in a sizable increase in ownership liquidity and balance sheet strength,” said Moody’s in a notice released this morning.
Cohen is worth nearly $15 billion, thanks to a colorful career as a hedge fund manager. His outer-borough style and love of big-time deals for stocks, artwork and sports partly inspired the Bobby Axelrod character on Billions.
The Queens Ballpark Company that issued the bonds has a current rating of Baa3, Moody’s lowest investment-grade bond rating. The rating reflects a moderate credit risk possessing some speculative characteristics.
How pronounced is the effect of Cohen’s wealth on the Mets? A mere four days before Cohen closed on the Mets purchase on Nov. 6, Moody’s issued a decidedly more dour note on the bonds, saying the Baa3 rating reflected “its weaker direct liquidity profile” and that the bonds “may continue to need equity support in 2021.”
Now, Moody’s says it is considering an upgrade. Its analysis “will focus on the degree of credit benefit from the new ownership … [and] better recovery prospects than six months ago when it was uncertain if an MLB 2020 season would even be played.”