NOT DEADLINE

THE ANATOMY OF A MARRIAGE ARRANGED BETWEEN STEVE COHEN, CAA, AND RANGE MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT...BY THE METS?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The Steve Cohen-owned Mets are not good. There’s no sense of urgency from the players on the field. The manager has failed to get the most out of the players who aren’t playing with urgency. The roster as constructed by the GM is not working..and the owner is tweeting way too much and will instead need to do some soul searching after the season is over…which leads to this post. Why are we talking about the Mets when there’s nothing newsworthy about them?

Well, there actually might be…and it’s worth telling a story.

CAA and Range Media Entertainment (financially backed, significantly, by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen) share literary and talent clients, co-represent domestic rights deals for a number of independent feature film projects, and have their respective actors/actresses starring in each other’s filmmakers’ films and television shows.

And recently, to secure additional financing/investments in the pursuit of expansion and growth, Range Media Entertainment retained CAA’s former film finance executive, Rick Hess as well as TPG executive David Bonderman who was a significant cog in the TPG machine that once owned a majority interest in CAA.

It’s surprising to see CAA embracing Range Media given CAA’s long history of frowning on (and sometimes suing) CAA employees/agents who defected to competitors (UTA) or who founded competing upstart entities (Michael Ovitz).  

Ok…that introduces two of three in this arranged marriage, but how about the third?

Steve Cohen, the Wall Street hedge fund guy, made a fortune. He says he did it by the book. The SEC said he didn’t. His company Point72 paid a $1.8 billion fine. Undeterred, Mr. Cohen went on his merry way and poured billions of dollars into any and all companies involved in ‘tech’ (Fintech/AI/Cybersecurity/Defense/Consumer)..and yet, none of this stroked his ego. These were all just ‘things’ that people with too much money do in an effort to make ‘way too much more’ money. As Sheelah Kolhatkar was quoted in a New York Times article as saying about Mr. Cohen–(August 30, 2020) ‘He (Mr. Cohen) is “always someone who cared a great deal about his image, and he was determined to show the world he won…”

Say hello to the New York Mets. A majority interest in the team was up for sale in 2019 and Mr. Cohen saw it as a legacy defining opportunity (after he’d lost out on buying the Los Angeles Dodgers). Author, Sheelah Kohatkar, said in the same New York Times article (looking back on Steve Cohen’s will to win)…”Owning the Mets would be a ‘capstone’ in those efforts (to show the world he won)” Sure enough, looking backwards, in December of 2019, a deal for the Mets and Mr. Cohen was imminent. $2.6 billion for 80% of the team with the Wilpon’s maintaining control for the next 5 years…until the deal fell apart when impatient Steve Cohen came to his senses and pulled back because worried about the Wilpons making decisions that could further devalue the team on and off the field.

Unrelenting, Steve Cohen continued a dialogue with the Wilpons into 2020 as nonexclusive negotiations against other bidders spilled over into the spring.

And then an interesting thing happened…

In late April 2020, it was reported in the press that CAA-repped Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez would make a run at buying the Mets. Around this same time, it was reported that former longtime CAA agent Pete Micelli was leaving a large entertainment conglomerate called Eone to contemplate the next stage of his career.

Between April and July/August 2020 amidst Steve Cohen’s nonexclusive negotiation with the Mets–it was reported in different media outlets that CAA-repped JLo and A-Rod had would put up a lot of their own money, that they wouldn’t put up much of their own money,  that they were pulling out of the Mets negotiations entirely, that they met with billionaire Wayne Rothbaum, that Wayne Rothbaum passed, that their official bid had a different billionaire involved, that they would toss in $100 milion as a World Series bonus, that the Mets owners wouldn’t part with the cable station as part of the deal, etc. Surely, no one, especially the Wilpons, could rely on this pair.

Meanwhile, during this same time period, Pete Micelli (formerly of Eone as mentioned above) and the other agents-turned-managers-to-be-named-later had assembled all but one of the pieces needed for what would become known as Range Media Entertainment. The last piece was the most important:  pinning down the group of really wealthy people who would finance the venture. 

As for Steve Cohen during this time, his bid of at least $2 billion for the Mets remained a constant like the North star and he was willing to spend a lot more if necessary. The Wilpons knew it as did the others, but that didn’t stop Steve Cohen from biting his nails to the nub because JLO or another group might pull a magic rabbit out of their hat.

All of these people and companies converged publicly in late August 2020 when, on August 23rd, it was announced on Deadline.com that Pete Micelli had launched a new management and production company called Range Media Entertainment with significant financial backing from none other than Steve Cohen who had never before or since invested in a startup entertainment management company that had nothing to do with tech or AI or any forward thinking ‘growth’ space…and then on August 28th, 2020, JLO and A-Rod announced on instagram they were officially bowing out of the Mets bidding sweepstakes, thus leaving a clear path for Steve Cohen to exclusively negotiate to buy the Mets.

Let’s have some fun and play the game of hypothetical ‘what if?’ because we’ll never know the actual truth unless someone has the courage to spill the beans before they die.

The Mets auction was fast and furious. JLO and A-ROD were in and then out and then in. It infuriated Steve Cohen to no end because he’s feeling the heat. And then, at some point during this craziness, Steve gets contacted (a call? a meeting? a letter written in invisible ink? a heads up from SIRI?) by someone who knows one of the bidders “So, you want the Mets…that’s funny because JLO wants the Mets.” “Yes. I know.” “You think you know, but you don’t know…” “What don’t I know?” Steve asks. “There’s a path to victory for you.” The man (or woman) says. “I’m listening.” “All we ask is for you do someone a favor in the very near future.” “A favor? What is this, the Godfather?” Steve asks, exasperated. The man (or woman) dismisses the snark and continues. “A new management company in the entertainment business is being formed by a group of former agents from all of the big agencies.”  “…and?” “All you have to do is invest millions (possibly tens of millions? possibly more?) of dollars in this ‘startup’ and agree to some other things…and the odds of you getting the Mets will increase significantly.” “Why would I ever invest in an upstart talent management company? I’m a tech guy.” Long silence. Longer silence. The man (or woman) wants Steve to figure it out on his own. Steve plays through all the scenarios. Who else knows about this ‘offer?’.  It makes Steve’s head spin.

Clarity finally emerges through the foggy part of Steve’s brain. Three scenarios. The worst case scenario is that he dismisses the offer and loses out on the Mets while wondering for the rest of his life if accepting the offer would have made the difference. The middle case scenario is that he accepts the offer and loses tens of millions of dollars in a startup management company and still has a fair shot at owning the Mets. In the best case scenario, he accepts the offer which turns out to be a significant talent management company that becomes something important someday AND HE OWNS THE METS!

Sure enough, the best case scenario wins out…

Post script: **Range Media is valued at $300 million after an additional round of funding.

                    **CAA and Range Media continue to make beautiful music together.

                    **Steve Cohen’s daughter meets and falls in love with one of CAA’s agents. 

Before we go, there are a few looming questions…and Not Deadline does not yet have the answer.

What is the end game for Range Media?  Continue growing into the global player that makes people like its ally, CAA, proud? Continue growing the company into something that cashes in its chips for mid to high nine figures when the right company at the right time makes the right offer for the right price?

One other interesting thing to revisit is the ‘why?’ of it all. If CAA was involved in any way whatsover with Range Media’s birth, what was the motivation? It’s often about money and/or power, but how? In what form? One thing’s for sure– when Range Media came into existence, the entertainment business was being ravaged by Covid and by the elimination of packaging fees that forced agencies to shrink, take on outside investors, or merge with other agencies…so, there’s a lot to dig into.

This whole thing is fascinating because 99% of the world plays checkers. 1% plays chess…and only a handful out of that 1% are the Grand Masters…

…stay tuned…

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