David Einhorn has a stomach for risk.
The hedge fund manager openly bet months ahead of Lehman Brothers' infamous collapse that the investment bank's value would decline. He has publicly clashed with Microsoft Corp.'s leadership. He is an avid poker player who once made more than a half-million dollars in a tournament.
And now he wants to sink $200 million into the New York Mets.
"Having an opportunity to become part of the Mets franchise is exciting beyond my wildest childhood dreams," he said Thursday.
Einhorn rooted for the Mets during his early boyhood years in Demarest, N.J. He even dressed up as Dave Kingman in a homemade Mets uniform for Halloween in 1975.
"I've been a baseball fan my entire life," he said.
In fact, Einhorn and his original partner, Jeffrey Keswin, ended his hedge fund's first quarterly report to investors by quoting baseball superstar Ken Griffey Jr.: "I don't consider myself a home-run hitter. But when I'm seeing the ball and hitting it hard, it will go out of the park."
Einhorn, 42, the son of a mergers and acquisition banker, started the hedge fund Greenlight Capital in 1996. It is now worth $7.8 billion.
In 2008, Einhorn took the unusual move of publicly talking about his financial bets that Lehman Brothers stock would plummet. He did something similar in 2002 with another financial firm, Allied Capital. He wrote about that move in the book "Fool Some of the People All of the Time: A Long Short Story."
In 2007, he resigned from the board of New Century Financial Corp., a subprime mortgage lender that faced a criminal probe, which was settled later. Greenlight had held a 6.3-percent stake in the company.
This week he stepped into controversy, calling for Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer's ouster at the Ira W. Sohn Investment Research Conference, a high-priced charity event that draws financial leaders.
"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, according to published reports. "His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft's stock."
Einhorn's bets haven't been limited to the stock market.
When told that Einhorn is a card player, like a handful of the Mets, pitcher Mike Pelfrey joked that he would reserve a spot for him in their games. "He can come to the back of the plane," Pelfrey said. "Tell him to bring his wallet."
Einhorn also once paid $250,000 in a charity auction to have lunch with Warren Buffett.
Asked how he came to put his hat in the ring to buy a stake in the Mets, he said he saw a story in a newspaper in January that the Wilpons were looking to sell a stake in the team. "So I called over to their investment bankers and got involved with the process," he said Thursday.
Though Einhorn was a young Mets fan, his family's move to Milwaukee when he was 7 led him to also embrace the Brewers. Current baseball commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig lived next door to Einhorn's best friend. "We played a lot of softball in the yard and if we hit it really far, it went into the Seligs' yard and that would be a home run," Einhorn said.
Einhorn returned to the East Coast to attend Cornell University and then worked in the New York financial world at Siegler, Collery & Co. and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. He now lives in Rye, with his wife, Cheryl, also a Cornell graduate, and their two daughters and a son. He coaches his daughter's softball team.
Einhorn's fortune and philanthropy have earned him fans. David Saltzman, executive director of the nonprofit Robin Hood Foundation, said Einhorn has been extremely generous with his time as a board member and with donations.
Einhorn is "a remarkable human being, with a soaring intellect and one of the biggest hearts I've ever met," Saltzman said Thursday.
With David Lennon
and Tania Lopez