At least a portion of the Mets' financial difficulties took a step toward being resolved Thursday when the team appointed David Einhorn, a hedge fund manager, as the priority partner in the Mets' ownership.
The deal is not official yet, with Einhorn now entering an exclusive negotiating stage to complete the deal that he believes can be done within a month.
But the infusion of $200 million for an undisclosed minority stake in the team will provide the team's principal owner, Fred Wilpon, with much-needed help to fight out of the debt that he faces.
"I think this just something of great personal interest," Einhorn said in a conference call. "I'm very excited to have this life experience. I've followed baseball all from my childhood, watched, hundreds, thousands of games, having opportunity to get involved at this level is going to be a fantastic life experience."
In a story in Sports Illustrated that was released this week, Wilpon said that the $200 million already has been plotted for its allocation.
That money is earmarked to pay off a $25 million emergency loan that Major League Baseball provided in November and another $75 million to pay down part of the $427 million in debt that the Mets are carrying, $375 million to banks and $52 million to Major League Baseball as part of the line of credit they borrowed off last year, and another $100 million toward operating costs.
In the same story, Wilpon confesses that the Mets "are bleeding cash" and expect to lose as much as $70 million this year.
Einhorn detailed how he grew up a Mets fan, living in Demarest until he was seven years old and his family moved to Milwaukee, and even creating a homemade Dave Kingman Mets jersey for a Halloween costume when he was 7.
He sounded more like a fan than a hedge fund manager as he spoke Thursday morning.
"Over time there's going to be losing seasons, tough seasons, winning seasons and hopefully championship seasons," Einhorn said. "I expect to experience all of those. We have fantastic leadership.
"I had a chance to meet Sandy Alderson. He's a first-rate executive. If he wasn't running baseball team I could imagine him running lots of other businesses."
Still, the $1 billion clawback lawsuit filed against Wilpon and the Mets' parent company, Sterling Equities, remains unresolved.
Wilpon acknowledged this week that if he loses the suit, he would have to sell the team in its entirety. Einhorn would not touch that, insisting only that the current deal they are negotiating is for a minority stake and that he has no interest in the Mets' television network, SNY, which is not a part of the deal, or a controlling voice.
"I'm very comfortable with the financial arrangement that's here," Einhorn said. "I'm not allowed to go into the structure of it. ... The reasons behind (the purchase) are going to have to remain private. In terms of the TV station I'm not really interested in owning a TV station. My excitement has to do with the baseball team. The TV station was never really part of the negotiations I took part in.
"That's not of interest to me. What I'm interested in right now is the opportunity that's in front of me right now. We don't have a completed transaction. We need to keep our eye on the ball. That's a good baseball metaphor."
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