Cabler close to $400 mil-plus deal for team

NEW YORK — Cablevision Systems is close to reaching a deal to buy the New York Mets for $400 million-$500 million.

The Long Island-based cabler has been interested in buying the Mets since Cablevision’s negotiations to buy the New York Yankees collapsed in February (Daily Variety, March 5).

Gotham goodies

Cablevision has amassed an array of sports and entertainment-related assets in the New York market, including the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, Madison Square Garden, MSG Network, Fox Sports New York, Radio City Music Hall, the Wiz electronics retailer, movie theaters and Broadway’s “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

Under the deal being discussed by the Mets and Cablevision, current team owners Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday will retain small equity stakes and continue to manage the Mets’ day-to-day operations.

“Cablevision has enjoyed excellent long-term relationships with the Mets and the Yankees as their primary television provider, and we communicate regularly with both teams,” saidJames Dolan, president and CEO of Cablevision.

“We maintain an active interest in the future of those relationships and, as is our corporate policy, we will not comment on rumors or speculation in the media,” added Dolan, son of Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan.

Saving on rights fees

For Cablevision, owning the teams its regional sports channels televise eliminates the need to pay the squads for rights to broadcast their games.

Cablevision’s broadcast rights to the Mets expire in 2009.

The company was eager to buy the Yankees before its deal with the team expires next year.

But when talks between Cablevision and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner broke down, Steinbrenner agreed to merge the Yankees with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.

While pursuing the Mets, Charles Dolan is also considered one of the serious bidders on the NFL’s New York Jets. Dolan would have to bid on the Jets privately because the NFL forbids corporate owners.

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