After word got out that Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez were discussing with potential investors a purchase of the New York Mets, another suitor for the team and its assets emerges: Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.
While not yet a player in the baseball world, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment is a major presence in the arena-sports world as the owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the e-sports franchise Dignitas and manager of Newark’s Prudential Center. Of the named partners, Josh Harris is a co-founder of Apollo Global Management and David Blitzer is an executive with Blackstone Group. According to Variety, the Mets have retained Steve Greenberg at Allen & Co. to oversee the sale process.
It’s no secret that the Mets ownership is facing some financial issues: Bonds backing the construction of Citi Field have been downgraded to junk status by S&P, and an effort to sell the team to Steve Cohen for $2.6 billion fell through. The Mets reportedly lose $50 million a year, losses that are offset by cable-network profits. Cohen’s offer did not include the team’s share of the SNY cable network, but reportedly the Wilpons will include that as part of any purchase. But in many ways the Cohen offer is irrelevent: that offer was made in better financial times but was ultimately pulled off the table. Will a new deal exceed $2 billion? Given the debt levels, it’s hard to see.
And, if Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment were to land the team, what sorts of value could be unlocked by new owners? The team is a solid draw, but upgrading the product to attract even larger crowds to Citi Field is always a possibility. The real upside, however, may be development around and adjacent to the ballpark in Willets Point, upgrading the Citi Field area into an entertainment complex. This is something the Wilpon worked on for years but never consummated, and it’s reportedly also a key part of the JRod plan to buy the team, with the Kraft family potentially participating as a development partner. In the short term, an entertainment complex may not be the most attractive investment opportunity out there–we are, after all, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic–but the pandemic won’t last forever, and it’s not every day an asset as attractive as the New York Mets is available.