Mets' prospective minority owner says deal is fair
Hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who has agreed to buy a minority stake in the New York Mets, says the deal is a ''win-win agreement'' for both sides.
Einhorn was at Citi Field on Monday to attend his second game in three days. Wearing shorts and a blue Mets cap, he answered questions on the field from reporters for about 3 1/2 minutes during batting practice.
The club's cash-strapped owners announced Thursday that they had agreed to sell a minority share of the team to Einhorn for $200 million. It was not revealed how much of the team Einhorn would own, and negotiations are ongoing.
Since then, there have been conflicting reports about details of the deal - including a clause that would give Einhorn an opportunity in the future to purchase a majority share of the Mets.
Einhorn would not disclose any such details, citing a confidentiality agreement, but said it's a fair deal and he hopes it will be completed in the next few weeks. He said some of what's been reported is inaccurate.
''Let me just say this: When the agreement first came out, or the discussion that first came out, there was a lot of reaction that this was a very one-sided agreement in favor of the Wilpons. And now as other stuff, much of which is not correct, has come out, there's a lot of you (reporting) that the agreement is very one-sided in favor of me. And I think both of those characterizations are wrong.
''This agreement I think is a fair agreement. It's a win-win agreement,'' Einhorn said. ''It covers a lot of the basic goals that I was hoping to achieve in the negotiations. I think it achieved a lot of the basic goals that the Wilpons were trying to achieve in the negotiations and I think it sets us on a path to a very good partnership going forward. And that's really all I'm going to say about it.''
The deal would help alleviate some of the financial woes plaguing Mets owner Fred Wilpon, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and president Saul Katz. The ownership group is being sued by the court trustee seeking to recover money for victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. The trustee wants the group to repay $1 billion to Madoff's victims.
The Mets received a loan from Major League Baseball in November, and the influx of money from Einhorn would help pay debts and cover operating expenses. MLB must approve the deal.
''As best I can tell, I think we're down to very, very small issues, and mostly documentations and loopholes,'' Einhorn said. ''The goal is by the end of June and there's a little bit of cushion in that, so if it goes smoothly it could be a little quicker than that. But on the other hand there's a lot of people who have to sign off on it and so it could easily extend all the way to the end of the month.''
Fred Wilpon told Sports Illustrated last week his team is ''bleeding cash'' and could lose up to $70 million this year.
Einhorn, president of the private investment firm Greenlight Capital, Inc., said on a conference call Thursday that he expects the club's financial fortunes ''to improve over time.''
But on Monday, he sounded less certain when asked if he could assure Mets fans that the team will not sink into financial oblivion over the next few years.
''I can't make any such assurance. It will be what it will be. It's not that people aren't going to try really hard to avoid that sort of a circumstance, but, you know, the future is uncertain and there's a wide range of possible outcomes of all sorts of things,'' Einhorn said.
He would not say if he wants to be the majority owner of a major league team.
''Right now I'm just focused on the opportunity that's right here, on the transaction that's at hand,'' he said.
Recently, Forbes magazine estimated the value of the Mets had dropped 13 percent in one year to $747 million - and that was before the team's projected losses this season.
Fred Wilpon told SI the club might slash payroll next year.
With his family and a group of kids, Einhorn watched the Mets take batting practice from behind a barrier set up a few feet in front of the backstop. A couple of players came over to sign autographs for the children, and Einhorn shook hands with infielder Justin Turner.
Einhorn, who was born in New Jersey and was a Mets fan before moving to Milwaukee as a boy, also attended Saturday night's game against the Phillies and watched from a luxury box.
''Happy to be here,'' he said Monday. ''The ballpark is beautiful.''