It seems the minority owner of the New York Mets will be a hedge fund manager, after all. But it won't be SAC Capital Advisors' Steven Cohen.
Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn has been tapped as the team's preferred bidder, both the team and Einhorn said today. Einhorn and current owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz are in exclusive negotiations.
The Mets said that Einhorn would not have a controlling interest in the team, describing him instead as a "preferred partner." The team said a deal could be finalized by June, pending the approval of Major League Baseball.
"David’s investment immediately improves the franchise’s financial position,” Wilpon said. “Equally important, David’s intelligence, integrity and success in both business and civic affairs provides us with another perspective in evaluating what is best for this organization and our fans, and we welcome his input."
"Having an opportunity to become part of the Mets franchise is exciting beyond my wildest childhood dreams," Einhorn added. "I look forward to partnering with the Wilpon and Katz families through the good seasons, the tough seasons and especially the championship seasons.”
The Mets owners, facing tens of millions of dollars in losses this season, hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and a $1 billion lawsuit stemming from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, are seeking at least $200 million for no more than 49% of the Mets. The New York Times reported yesterday that the deal will not include a slice of the Mets' valuable cable television network, SportsNet New York.
Einhorn is the third person or group tapped to buy the Mets stake since the team put it on the block earlier this year. Wilpon and Katz were twice said to be near a deal with Cohen before talks fizzled. Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that the Mets had chosen two former Glencore International commodities traders, including Anthony Lanza, founder of private equity firm Carriage House Partners, as their preferred bidders.
Einhorn's name had not previously appeared in connection with the Mets, and he was not one of the four sets of finalists for the stake, which included the Glencore pair, Cohen and SkyBridge Capital's Anthony Scaramucci.
Einhorn himself gave some indication yesterday at the Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference, ending his presentation with a shout of, "Go Mets!"
The hedge fund honcho spent most of his speech at the conference deriding Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, saying the company traded at a "remarkable discount" due to its "Charlie Brown management."
"It's time for Microsoft's board to tell Steve Ballmer, 'All right, we see what you can do, let's give so-and-so a chance," Einhorn said. "His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft's stock."