Steven A. Cohen captured the hearts ofNew York Mets fans at hello.
As in: Hello, Ihave $10 billion.
Cohen’s money, after years of relative penny-pinching at New York’s junior Major League Baseball team, and his history as a Mets fan growing up on Long Island, endeared himself to a fan base that describes itself as long-suffering.
The promise of rich free-agent signings and fan-friendly ballpark amenities might have been enough, but there was more. Cohen, 64, has transformed himself into a jocular, ask-me-anything presence on Twitter, where he’s quickly accumulated more than 85,000 followers and is affectionately referred to by delirious Mets fans as “Uncle Steve.”
This is a guy who was once consideredreclusive, who never spoke to the press or made public statements or would even have his photo taken. And who ran his hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, like a money-printing fiefdom. SAC Capital’s methods were secretive, too, until the firm pleaded guilty in 2013 to insider trading, paid $1.8 billion in fines and forfeitures and was forced to close.
The metamorphosis from Bobby Axelrod (the cutthroat hedge-fund manager on Showtime’s fictional “Billions,” who many viewers say was modeled on Cohen) to more like Mark Cuban (the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team who high-fives fans at the arena) was something few predicted.
Cohen’s surprising gregariousness could be his way of enjoying a honeymoon phase with Mets fans, who might not be so enamored of the team owner after a disappointing July homestand against the Yankees, or it could be a way for him to rehabilitate a tarnished image. He declined, through a spokesperson, to comment for this story.
Nobody ever confused a baseball team, a very public business, with a hedge fund, which typically shirks public scrutiny. So now Cohen is yukking it up with Mets fans, who can’t get enough of his tweets, which often wander into “dad joke” territory. Asked by a fan about removing Chick-Fil-A advertisements from the fair poles at Citi Field, Cohen responded:
Cohen originally joined Twitter in January 2017, but posted just twice before he became the Mets owner. One was a retweet from a Buffalo Bills analyst during a game against the New England Patriots. The other, in June 2018, was a link to subscribe to theWashington Post as President Donald Trump attacked the newspaper.
Cohen shows a willingness to have fun with some of the Mets’ longest-running embarrassments. When asked about cutting a check to former player Bobby Bonilla — who receives a $1.2 million payment every July 1 through 2035 as part of a contract deferral — Cohen suggested making a celebration out of it:
And following news of second baseman Robinson Cano’s yearlong suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, Cohen pleased fans by saying the money saved by not paying Cano’s salary would be spent on other players.
It hasn’t been all puns and fanciful crowd-pleasers, however. Cohen has used Twitter to shut down rumors, including a potentialfront-office hire for the Mets and, despite pleas from New York Jets fans, his interest in buying the National Football Leagueteam.
The quick turn from tight-lipped hedge-fund manager to everyone’s favorite boss isn’t just out of character for Cohen. It’s a rarity among other billionaire sports-team owners who made their fortunes in finance.
David Tepper, the Appaloosa Management founder who now owns the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, is nowhere to be found on Twitter. The same goes for hedge funders Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, who own theNational Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks. Also non-tweeters: Josh Harris ofApollo Capital Management and part-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League; Mark Walter, who runsGuggenheim Partners and owns a piece of the Los Angeles Dodgers; and David Bonderman of TPG Advisors and the NHL’s expansion Seattle Kraken, which begins play next year.
For now, Cohen, who runs hedge fund Point72 Asset Management, has been able to keep fans in the cheap seats happy. In a recent tweet, he was even able to take a good-natured jab at his prodigious art collection, which is purported to be worth $1 billion, and indicate to the Mets faithful that a $10 billion fortune might not buy everything:
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