Einhorn Mets' principal owner in 3 years?

New York Mets prospective minority owner David Einhorn, New York Mets prospective minority owner David Einhorn, right, waves before the start of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies. (May 28, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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Hedge fund manager David Einhorn, in talks to buy a large minority stake in the New York Mets, could become a principal owner of the baseball team in three years, according to media reports.

Einhorn, who attended last night's Mets game and waved to fans, is in talks to take a large minority stake, a $200 million investment, in return for a one-third share of the cash-strapped team, the New York Times and ESPNNewYork.com reported.

Under the deal, Einhorn, president of Greenlight Capital Inc., would have the option of raising his stake to 60 percent after three years, the two outlets reported, citing "a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations."

Such a move would end decades-long control of the team by the Wilpon family, including current principal owner Fred Wilpon.

The family could retain control of the Mets after three years by repaying Einhorn his investment, but he would retain his one-third stake, the Times said.

In a statement from the Mets organization yesterday, the team said: "We have entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Mr Einhorn. Per the terms of that agreement, the substance of the negotiations is strictly confidential."

A spokesman for Einhorn declined comment.

In remarks during a conference call with reporters last week, Einhorn sounded content about being a passive investor, without any control of the team, at least for the foreseeable future. He said he was satisfied with terms of the transaction; didn't want a piece of SNY, the Mets' cable network, which other bidders have demanded; and sounded untroubled by the team's financial problems and lengthy stewardship under Fred Wilpon.

"This is just something of great personal interest," he said.

"I do expect the financial fortunes of the team to improve over time and I'm comfortable with where we're headed," he said. "I'm beyond comfortable. I'm excited." He added: "I have no real plans to sell this investment. I expect to hold it for a very long, long time. I'm not looking for an exit for a long time."

This month Wilpon told Sports Illustrated the Mets were "bleeding cash" and could lose $70 million this year.

The team's principal owners also face a $1 billion lawsuit by Irving Picard, the trustee seeking money for victims of Bernard Madoff, to recover "fictitious profits" and principal from their dealings with the now imprisoned Ponzi schemer.

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