Commentary

Einhorn can't promise brighter days

Future Mets minority owner won't rule out franchise peril -- he might be banking on it

Updated: May 31, 2011, 10:10 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- David Einhorn, the incoming minority owner of the New York Mets, bets on losers in his primary business as a hedge-fund guru. The price of the stock declines, he makes a windfall.

And, although Einhorn did not exactly say it on Monday afternoon as the Mets took batting practice at Citi Field, he almost left the impression the same strategy applies to his purchase of a minority share of the team.

Buy a 33 percent stake. Bet Fred Wilpon and family will continue to suffer financially, or even have a catastrophic result in the $1 billion-plus clawback lawsuit brought by the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Swoop in and claim the majority share in three years.

What leads to that impression, besides Einhorn's modus operandi in his primary business?

When Einhorn was asked if he could provide any assurance to Mets fans that the team would not continue its slide further into financial peril in the next couple of years, he offered no platitudes about brighter days to come.

"I can't make any such assurance," he said while wearing a Mets cap, near the home team's dugout, before the Mets went on to beat the Pirates, 7-3, in the series opener. "It'll be what it'll be. It's not that people aren't going to try really hard to avoid that sort of a circumstance, but the future is uncertain. And there is a wide range of possible outcomes of all sorts of things. That's true in life in general. And it's true in this circumstance as well."

Of course, the people trying to avoid that sort of circumstance -- the further financial peril -- will be the Wilpons, whereas Einhorn can benefit if their financial issues continue. A source told ESPNNewYork.com last week that Einhorn has an option to up his share to 60 percent in three years, but that the Wilpons can block it by returning his initial $200 million investment.

If the Wilpons block it, Einhorn would still retain one-sixth of the team, according to the source. That's a nice perk for what essentially would be a three-year loan.

But you have to presume the end game is majority ownership.

[+] EnlargeDavid Einhorn
AP Photo/Bill KostrounEinhorn bets against businesses all the time. Are the Mets any different?

Not that Einhorn would discuss that proposition, or much else specific, Monday -- aside from what a nice ballpark Citi Field is.

Asked in a general sense if he would like to be the majority owner of a baseball team some day, Einhorn said: "Right now I'm just focused on the opportunity that's right here -- on the transaction that's at hand."

At least Einhorn stayed away from insulting Jose Reyes, David Wright or Carlos Beltran. Asked for any observations about the team, Einhorn said it was not his place to offer any commentary.

"I don't have anything to say about the team at this point," he said.

Invited for his thoughts just as a fan, not as an incoming owner, he still resisted.

"I just don't think it would be the right thing to do," Einhorn said.

He was glib on Citi Field, though. Einhorn had taken in Saturday's loss to the Philadelphia Phillies from a box with his family.

"The ballpark is beautiful," Einhorn said. "The one thing that immediately comes out is almost anywhere you are in the ballpark is a nice place to watch the game. Whether it's the food or the walking around, it's spacious. It's nice. It's a very pleasant place to be. We've had fantastic weather all weekend, which makes it even better."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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