Much to the delight of New York Mets fans everywhere, the Wilpons have decided to sell the team. Potential buyers include everyone from Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodrigeuz to owners of the New Jersey Devils, David Blitzer and Joshua Harris. Well, Harris and Blitzer added a new sports team to their collection this week, but it wasn’t the baseball team from Queens.
Instead, in a surprising development, Harris and Blitzer bought a small share in the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League. That gives them holdings in three of the four major professional North American sports leagues. It’s worth noting that their share is small, reportedly less than 5%, and gives them no controlling interest in the team. Harris and Blitzer also said buying part of the Steelers doesn’t change their intention to pursue buying the Mets.
Buying part of the Steelers was an odd move, one which brought most by surprise. Why would Harris and Blitzer want to add a piece of Steel City and buy a part of Sidney Crosby’s neighbors? Let’s take a look at some possible motives:
They Want to Buy the Steelers Outright
Buying a minority share of a team is a great way to get your foot in the door to eventually buy the whole thing, but that’s not something we can see happening with the Steelers. For the entirety of their NFL existence, the Steelers have been owned by the Rooney family and passed down from generation to generation. It’s hard to imagine they would ever think of letting control of the team getaway. If they were, why would NFL traditionalists such as the Rooney family let outsiders like Harris and Blitzer in? Of course, maybe Harris and Blitzer think the day will come when the Rooney will want to sell, but that still seems like a long time away.
They Want to Buy Another NFL Team
Sports journalists have called the group of NFL owners a fraternity and that’s the perfect comparison; small, exclusionary, and you need to know someone to get in. Even if Harris and Blitzer can’t buy the Steelers themselves, having this small share raises their profile as NFL owners. Then when another team comes up for sale, they’ll already have their foot in the door. That will do wonders in their favor against other opposing parties.
This is the most likely option. Buying a small percentage of one of the NFL’s most elite teams is a great investment for those who can afford it, especially those with other dealings in professional sports, such as Harris and Blitzer. Remember they have no controlling interest, so this is mainly a passive investment for them. They get to sit back and watch the benjamins hit the bank.
They Want to Create Their Own Television Network
Remember at one point in time the Devils were owned by the New York Yankees, who also owned the then-New Jersey Nets, and put all their sports teams under one roof. MSG Networks still follows a similar formula today with the New York Rangers and New York Knicks. Now that Harris and Blitzer own the Devils, Steelers, Philadelphia 76ers, and want to make a play for the Mets could they be trying the same?
The answer for two major reasons is probably no. Harris and Blitzer’s sports holdings are across three media markets in New York, Philadelphia and now Pittsburgh. If they wanted to start their own sports network, it would most likely be a regional sports channel only available in one media market. It might make sense if they bought the Mets to package Devils and Mets’ broadcasts on the same channel, but there’s a problem with that too. The Mets are already broadcast on SNY, also owned by the Wilpons. The Wilpon’s refusal to sell their television station along with the team has derailed previous bids to sell the team. For those reasons, a Harris and Blitzer television station might not be in the cards.