Relax, Mets fans — James Dolan probably isn’t going to buy your team. He just wants the TV network.
As the Wilpon family cranks up a sale of its MLB franchise, rumors swirled this week that Dolan — who, as owner of the Knicks and the Rangers may be even less popular with Big Apple sports fans than the Wilpons — was interested in buying the Mets.
Sources confirmed it’s likely that the billionaire boss of Madison Square Garden will take a look alongside other prospective bidders. In addition to New York industry titans, those could include a bloc formed by ex-Yankee Alex Rodriguez, sources say.
Nevertheless, insiders said it’s not the team Dolan is likely interested in, but rather the Wilpons’ ownership stake in the SNY cable-TV network. The idea would be to merge it with the MSG Network to create a New York sports-broadcasting colossus, sources said.
“Jim Dolan buying the Mets sounds crazy at first,” said one banker familiar with Dolan and the Mets sale. “But he has always wanted to merge [the MSG Network] with another local sports channel. He needs baseball, and that might require taking a shot at the Mets.”
Asked on Friday about Dolan’s possible interest in the Mets and SNY, an MSG spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on rumor or speculation.”
On Wednesday, The Post reported that SNY could now be up for grabs after talks to sell 80 percent of the team for $2.6 billion to hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen fizzled last month. The network could be worth as much as $900 million in an auction scenario, according to one banking insider.
Multiple sources told The Post that Dolan has attempted in the past to strike a deal for the Yankees’ YES Network, which would have given his MSG Network rights to baseball games and summertime TV revenues that insiders say Dolan believes would make MSG a more appealing acquisition target.
Still, insiders cautioned that Dolan’s net worth is estimated at $1.5 billion — not nearly enough to buy the team, and likely forcing him to partner with another billionaire interested in owning the Mets. In that scenario, said one banker, Dolan could merge SNY with his networks and then sell his stake in the team.
Such a deal could be frowned upon by Major League Baseball, as would the fact that Dolan’s family already owns a team. His uncle, Larry Dolan, bought the Cleveland Indians in 2000.
In 1999 Cablevision was in serious negotiations to buy the Mets outright from the Wilpons and their late co-owner, Nelson Doubleday. That deal was reportedly scuttled by “structural and control issues” — a phrase that sounds eerily similar to what killed the Mets deal with Cohen in recent weeks. At the time, after the bid to buy the Mets fell through, the Dolans struck a deal to air some Mets games on MSG between 2002 and 2005.
Since SNY launched in 2006, MSG has not aired a big-league baseball game.
“There’s a network with its own baseball team out there,” said the banker. “[Dolan] would be remiss if he didn’t take a look.”
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