De Blasio mum on whether he’ll block sale of Mets to controversial investor

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) declined to reveal Thursday whether he would sign off on the sale of the New York Mets to a hedge fund billionaire who was punished by federal regulators for conduct related to an insider trading scheme.

During a Thursday press conference, de Blasio brushed aside questions over the New York City government’s review of the pending $2.5 billion purchase of the baseball team by Steve Cohen, which could be approved as soon as Friday.

The land where the Mets’ home stadium — Citi Field — is located is owned by New York City and leased to the franchise. The lease agreement contains a clause that bans anyone convicted of a felony or involved in organized crime from renting the stadium, and the city is reviewing whether Cohen would be covered by that provision, according to the New York Post.

“It’s our land,” de Blasio said Thursday, according to The Associated Press. “There is a legal requirement that if there’s an ownership change it has to be evaluated. Our law department is doing that evaluation based on the law.”

S.A.C. Capital Advisors, a defunct group of hedge funds founded by Cohen, paid $1.8 billion in 2013 to settle charges of insider trading brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department. 

Cohen, however, was not accused of a felony and settled charges that he failed to properly supervise the manager accused of insider trading, drawing a two-year ban on managing outside money.

De Blasio asserted Thursday that reviewing the sale of the Mets to Cohen is simply a matter of “due diligence.” He also waived off a Wednesday report from the Post he warned MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred that he would seek to block the sale of the team.

“It’s not appropriate to be commenting on the people involved,” de Blasio said Thursday, according to the Post. “The Law Department is handling this. I’m not going to issue personal views in the middle of that kind of review.”

De Blasio, who ran unsuccessfully for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, will begin the final year of his second term as mayor in 2021. While he is barred under city law from running for a third term, derailing the sale of the Mets could haunt a future bid for higher office.

If de Blasio blocks the sale, it won’t be the first time he’s enraged New York baseball fans: The mayor is a die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox, the arch rival of the New York Yankees.

Tags Bill de Blasio Bill de Blasio Major League Baseball Steve Cohen

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