NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio confirms city has 'legal right' to investigate Mets sale to Steve Cohen

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Steve Cohen’s bid to buy the Mets has been approved by an initial panel of MLB owners, and is expected to be voted on by the rest soon after the World Series ends, but there may be one non-baseball executive that can block it: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

It has been reported that de Blasio has potentially looked to block the sale – Bob Nightengale broke the story last week, which has since been refuted in part by the Daily News – but in a press briefing on Monday morning, the Mayor reiterated that his office has legal right to look at the transaction.

“Because the land that Citi Field is on belongs to the city, the city always has to have a role when there is an ownership change. There’s a process for doing that, the law department is doing its due diligence right now. I’ll be getting a report from them soon, it’ll be based on the facts and I will respond to it quickly,” de Blasio said in the briefing.

Per Nightengale’s initial report, the hang up is that New York City owns the land upon which Citi Field sits, and according to the 2006 Stadium Lease Agreement between the New York City Industrial Development Agency and Queens Ballpark Company, the city has the right to deny transfer of the Mets and/or Citi Field (as well as any City-based team or City-owned property) to a person who has committed a felony.

Cohen has technically not been convicted, but he did pay $1.8 billion to the SEC to settle a civil suit after his former hedge fund, S.A.C. Capital, pled guilty to securities and wire fraud charges in 2013. That payment and agreement prohibited Cohen from managing outside money for two years, and he is now considered a “prohibited person” within the stadium lease – meaning “any person that has been convicted in a criminal proceeding for a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude.”

Mayor de Blasio has 30 days to invoke his rights after sale, and said during the briefing that “this is something our law department is evaluating, we’re going to get to a resolution on this very quickly.”

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroWFAN

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