Before Mets, Einhorn Longed for Brewers

METS In 2004, David Einhorn was a 35-year-old hedge fund star, and he coveted what some other rich men already had: a baseball team. The Milwaukee Brewers were for sale, and Einhorn had fond memories of the Brew Crew — and Robin Yount and Paul Molitor — from growing up in an affluent suburb of Milwaukee.

Einhorn was too timid or too late to make a formal offer, and the Brewers went to a group led by another financier, Mark Attanasio. One person involved in the sale said that Einhorn wanted to join the group and buy a small piece of the Brewers. But his timing was off. He had lost out on his hometown team.

“He looked seriously at the Brewers,” said Bill Ackman, another hedge fund heavyweight, who runs Pershing Square Capital Management. He said that Einhorn did not view his interest as a lark. Indeed, Ackman said Einhorn “kicked himself” when he heard that Attanasio paid only a share of what his investment group paid for the team: $223 million.

Disappointing as that was, Einhorn did not give up. In 2009, he met in Manhattan with Bob DuPuy, baseball’s president at the time, and Jonathan Mariner, the chief financial officer of Major League Baseball, to discuss the path to buying a team, to find out what teams were on the market and to explore and understand various ownership structures.

“He wanted to learn about the industry and what had happened over the past 10 years, but the discussion was not team-specific,” said DuPuy, who left baseball last year.

Barely two years later, Einhorn got very specific. He wanted a piece of the Mets. The team was not yet for sale, but reports had surfaced that its owners had lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Bernard L. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Then, last January, his chance came: Fred Wilpon, the Mets’ principal owner, announced that he was seeking an investor for a minority stake in the team.

Einhorn emerged last month as the last suitor standing. He agreed, pending a signed contract, to pay $200 million for a third of the money-losing team, according to people with knowledge of the deal. He will have an option to buy a majority stake in several years.

If the Wilpons try to block his attempt to buy control of the team, they must return the $200 million to Einhorn, who can then keep a minority share of the Mets.

Einhorn, a Cornell graduate whose trademark is a willingness to take unconventional and contentious public stances, impressed many sports bankers and colleagues with his offer’s creativity.

“I’m sure other people are saying, ‘What, I would have done that deal,’ ” said Karen L. Finerman, the hedge fund manager who was a co-founder of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, who is a friend of Einhorn’s.

Einhorn will not be in Milwaukee to see his two favorite teams, the Mets and the Brewers, start a three-game series Tuesday. But he can watch the games on SNY, the cable network owned in significant part by the Mets’ owners, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz. It is not impossible that he could wind up owning a piece of the network in the course of his dealings with Wilpon and Katz.

Einhorn, the older of two brothers, was 7 when his family moved from New Jersey (hence the interest in the Mets) to Fox Point, Wis., a well-to-do suburb on Milwaukee’s North Shore that is home to some of the city’s business elite, including Bud Selig, baseball’s commissioner. By all accounts, his childhood was a studious and comfortable one, and one in which his baseball passion turned to the Brewers from the Mets.

He attended Nicolet High School, considered one of the best in the state, where he learned some of the skills he would use professionally while competing on the debate team. Recently, he donated $1 million through his family charity to finance debate clubs in 14 high schools in Milwaukee.

Einhorn’s father, Stephen, a banker who specializes in mergers, and his mother, Nancy, a bookkeeper, have been active in the arts and charities. Through the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, they donate to educational, religious, medical, youth service and antibigotry causes; the trust also provided money to produce “The Bully Project,” a documentary.

Posted by: NYTIMES

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