Interest in the New York Mets is heating up.
Major League Baseball has pre-approved seven groups as qualified bidders for the franchise, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Sportico. The person was granted anonymity because the process is private.
The preliminary approval grants the groups, all of which must sign non-disclosure agreements as part of the process, access to a so-called data room that allows the prospective bidders to begin their due diligence.
Allen & Co. is overseeing the process for the Mets, who in December said they were in negotiations to sell up to 80% of the club to hedge fund titan Steve Cohen in a deal that valued the club at $2.6 billion. Those talks fell apart, prompting Allen & Co. to restart the process.
MLB and Allen & Co. declined to comment.
Former big-league star Alex Rodriguez and his fiancée, actor and entertainer Jennifer Lopez, have retained JPMorgan Chase & Co. to raise capital for a bid. Among those possibly teaming with the superstar duo are Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola and billionaire Vitaminwater co-founder Mike Repole.
Billionaire Josh Harris and Blackstone executive David Blitzer, owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, are also exploring a bid for the money-losing franchise. A report of a $1.4 billion bid by the Harris-led group is inaccurate, the person said, adding that first-round bids will be due sometime in July.
Brothers David and Simon Reuben, who amassed a fortune investing in real estate, technology companies and leisure, are also said to be exploring a bid, Sportico has reported. Their interest, people said, lies more in the real estate opportunities around Citi Field.
The Mets preference is to close a deal before the end of the year, the person said. The ultimate winner of the auction would still require MLB approval.
Sports bankers say the preferred time for a transfer of ownership in baseball is after the World Series and before the end of the calendar year. That is when teams must begin making big-dollar decisions on contractual commitments, with major implications on arbitration and free agency, and prospective owners usually prefer to have control at that point.
The Mets’ current ownership group, led by real estate developer Fred Wilpon, will cover all of the team’s financial commitments this season, the person said.
Sportico previously reported the Mets were seeking to push back their existing credit facilities by one year, to July 31, 2021, giving them a liquidity cushion while seeking a buyer.
Even before COVID-19 disrupted major sports, the Mets lost at least $50 million annually. That amount will increase as MLB prepares to begin a shortened, 60-game regular season in late July.