David Einhorn got to meet the Mets, but there’s no chance he’ll ever own 'em.
Einhorn, the hedge-fund manager who had been in talks to invest $200 million with the team, said Thursday the deal was off because the Mets made last-minute changes to the deal and further negotiations were “pointless.”
“I was surprised to see that many of the basic provisions of our deal ... had been changed,” Einhorn said during a conference call Thursday.
Under the deal, Einhorn was going to loan the team $200 million. If the Mets paid him back, he would get to keep a minority stake of the team as an interest payment. If not, he could make a deal to buy a majority interest, which Mets chairman Fred Wilpon was desperate to avoid.
“The plan now going forward is [to sell] smaller units to friends and family,” a person close to the team told Newsday. “Some other people who couldn’t afford $200 million, but maybe could afford $20 million ... Those smaller pieces will have a minority piece. No path to ownership.”
Einhorn also claimed the Mets secretly had met with at least one other bidder over the summer, though he did not elaborate. The Mets did not comment, but a source close to the negotiations for the team said they may have met with other suitors while an exclusivity agreement had temporarily expired. However, the source denied that the Mets made any changes to the contract with Einhorn before both sides called it quits on Thursday.
The kiboshed deal didn’t come as a shocker to Robert Boland, an NYU sports business professor, who said most deals for a minority investment in a sports team fall apart. What was odd, though, was that Einhorn had been a regular fixture at the stadium for months.
“It made it more of a marriage before the engagement really had taken place,” he said.
But Boland said the failed deal may be a “blessing in disguise for the Mets,” because they don’t appear to be as desperate for cash as they once were.
“They’re not out of the woods, but they’re in a much better place than they were six months ago, financially,” he said.
The Mets claimed as much in a statement Thursday.
“Ownership has provided additional capital to cover all 2011 losses and is moving forward with the necessary resources to continue to operate the franchise,” the team said in a statement, adding there is ”no financial pressure to do a deal on any particular schedule.”
Wilpon, however, is still tangled in a $1 billion lawsuit over his knowledge of Bernard Madoff’s ponzi scheme, in which he also lost money.
Adam Garnett, of Mets blog Rising Apple, said that while fans were excited about Einhorn possibly taking over one day, the Wilpons were loath to see that happen.
“I think that the [Wilpons] probably — last of everyone — figured out that this was going to be a bad deal for them and they were going to probably eventually lose the team,” Garnett said.
“We’re tired of these guys and we want new blood in here,” he added. “Now you’re stuck with the Wilpons for the foreseeable future.”
Follow Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja