Friday, May 27, 2011

N.Y. METS ~ Meet The New Boss; Same As The Old Boss

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS:  Money Changes Everything; Sometimes.  But I Still Think the Clock is Ticking on the Wilpons.

I remember saying in a previous post that Fred Wilpon would indeed find someone to fork over a $200 million dollar check and expect nothing in return for buying part ownership in the Mets.  I think the phrase I used was, "There's a sucker born everyday".

But clearly David Einhorn is no sucker (or a schmuck...if you will).  He blew the lid off Lehman Brothers' problematic math theories and put them out of business as a result.  He is very outspoken regarding Microsoft's management, of which he owns multi-millions shares in the company.  He's a savvy hedge-fund manager.  And, oh yea..., there's the almost $700,000 he won playing in the World Series of Poker.  Poker - (sigh).  But he gave a lot of that money to charity.  So, he has something going for him; I guess.  And have no fear, in the absence of better sense, there's always money!  Money changes everything.

He's a childhood Mets fan too.  So there's a passion factor there which I guess is a good thing for us fans, but which flies in the face of Fred Wilpon's devotion to the Dodgers (in a totally irrelevant jab at Fred).  But he comes on board with no rights; privileges; managing authority, operating input, or decision making clout in the grand scheme of the Mets.  All those responsibilities still rests in the hands of Fred and more frighteningly, Jeff Wilpon.  Will he have an opinion and be able to express it internally?  I would assume that.  But externally?  I'm not sure sure if we'll be getting many public comments from him.

But I have to know where David Einhorn and Jeff Wilpon get placed on the totem pole now.  If there's only one more corner office with a view left, versus the office with no windows, who gets it?  Jeff is a legacy; nepotism got him his position.  He's the current day-time manager of Mets-R-Us.  David is a principled shareholder now and is self made (eh hem! Jeff).  But they keep saying the Wilpons are still in control of operations.  And sometimes, especially in the Mets' case, it's good to be the owner's son.  But bad for us as has been proven.

If Nelson Doubleday likened Lil Jeff to (Egyptian) Pharaoh on his way out the door back in 2003, compounded by Jeff demonstrating what a failure he's been as a Baseball Man Trainee over the years (by the way, predicted by Nelson Doubleday), I want to know who exactly will be calling who Mister Einhorn or Mister Little Pon in the hallways or at the coffee maker?  What's probably closest to the truth is they'll hardly ever be in the same building together.  Fred Wilpon doesn't want a so-called partner.  Hell, after getting a suite, I don't think Fred even wants to give him an official title.  Fred just wants the money.  And incidentally, Einhorn has more of it just in case Fred might need to relinquish a few more percentages of team ownership for some unforeseen  reason.

Because honestly, I don't see what the hell $200 million dollars is going to do for this team.  They have a loan they need to repay MLB.  Some of that money is for debt on the park.  The rest I guess is to pay operating costs for the very near future.  So all Fred Wilpon is doing is recouping the $70 million he expects to lose this season (per SI article) with Eichorns' cash infusion; pay some bills, and break even for the season.  In a round-about way, that's generally the plan.  It might last him two years.  But the Mets have already made it known they're cutting payroll moving forward.  This $200 million doesn't change that.  Because it's not paying for Jose Reyes either.

But Picard is still that piano in the sky looking to fall on the Wilpons any day now.  Considering how much it cost to buy the Mets in 1980, Wilpon is still sitting on a fortune Picard is salivating to have liquidated.  We just might be seeing, not the legal system at work here, but good ol' Capitalism in the works.  After buying low by today's standards, Wilpon may be forced to sell high.  Eichorn on the other hand looks ready to pounce on a low-offering block purchase of shares in the Mets Company and maybe looking to seize an fortuitous opportunity.

Time will take care of that.  But should this deal get finalized, it means we are still shackled at the ankles to the Wilpon's steel ball and the Saul B. Katz Dilemma remains large and as in-charge as ever.  There is no new wrinkle here.  In the Wilpon's view, this is less about Einhorn and him keeping quiet than it is about the Benjamins.

Sandy Alderson really and truly is the only hope we have of getting the newly painted S.S. Wilpon steered away from an impending iceberg.  Sandy Alderson, J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta have no choice now but to rise to the levels of their reputations for us fan's sakes, and deliver a consistent playoff contender to Flushing.  Because the head of this organization appears as if he's hunkering down for a long fight even knowing his fan base would rather see him leave quietly in the night.

But Fred Wilpon was seeking a partner that would remain as silent as a mouse.  And David Einhorn appears "excited" to do just that.  But why?  A second assumption I'm willing to make is that David will get first rights to the Wilpon's and Katz' shares should they still need to sell their portions of the teams in the near or distant future.  And maybe, just maybe, he's savvy enough to realize they are in deep trouble; more so than we can understand; and could very well be hoping to backdoor himself into a majority stake in the Mets.

I do think he'll make a modest return on his $200 million in time.  All Baseball owners do.  So I don't think for a second his principle investment is in jeopardy.  And honestly, I don't think he cares.  He owns part of the Mets and he was willing to fork over enough cash to be able to say that.  And if I were a fan, like I am, and had $200 million laying around collecting dust, I'd probably look to buy a piece of the Mets also and be damned with thoughts of any capital gains.  However, I might be compelled to bound and gag Jeff and hide him in a utility closet.

In the press conference, Eichorn told us absolutely nothing which is good news.  The first thing I got out of the introductory conference call was that he's in no threat of falling victim to his own lack of semantics and inability to manipulate the English language.  He seems quite adept at speaking his mind very well.  Speaking and still saying nothing is an art.  The bad news is that we don't know what kind of deal he and Fred Wilpon are still trying to hammer out.  Fred Wilpon has been adamant about retaining his majority stake in the Mets in the Wilpon family.  But even Fred will have to cede certain somethings to get this deal done because where else will he find a willing and partner content with being silent?  And besides, we know Selig will give his blessings.

They say there were multiple interested parties, but they all probably had their own ideas contrary to the Wilpon's plan.  For instance, Eddie Kranepool was leading a group who made their fortunes in the same Investments Industry manner Eichorn did, but they were lobbying for a full 50/50 partnership; as were other groups.  SNY would surely have been a matter of contention regarding any agreement to invest that much money into the Mets.  But again, Einhorn in his own words says he's very comfortable with the deal he is still negotiating with Mets and wants no part of a TV station.  So my third assumption is there is definitely something worthwhile in the works that would compel David to make this investment than just being a fan with money and an opportunity.  Besides Fred Wilpon never had any kind of luck before.  Why should the perfect buyer fall out of the sky and into his lap now?

Here's a possible answer (because what I know is NOTHING).  Other perspective buyers were offering their opinions and ideas regarding buying into the Mets to the Media and the public.  David Einhorn is someone we never heard about till less that 72 hours ago.  Here's another reach for answers on my part.  With Madoff in jail, the Wilpons need another stock market guru to invest money so they can continue their cancerous way of borrowing against earnings.  Don't forget, what Madoff was doing with Wilpon's money was one thing.  What Mr. Wilpon was using it for and how he was using it is another issue entirely.

What we learned about Mr. Wilpon is that he didn't operate this team based on ticket sales; MLB properties revenue; TV/Radio rights, or SNY.  After having to cut Nelson Doubleday his check for half the team and then taking on the debt of a new park, Fred Wilpon relied on Bernie Madoff like a seeing-eye dog to pay his way through a precarious decade thanks to steady returns.  This is a good a time as any for a good laugh over Bobby Bonilla's deal but then everything else is legal mumbo-jumbo.

So where exactly does David Einhorn fit into The New SAUL B. KATZ DILEMMA?  He hasn't forked over a check yet.  There's still time for David get scared of this deal and being subservient to the WILPONS.  Yeeesh!  So you see, there has to be something more to this.

Oh yea...,  exactly what percentage of the team does $200 million get you?  Surely not 49% right?  Nah!  Even with debt, 35% maybe?  A third of the team?  David Einhorn said we'll find out in a month.  But for now, this was a good way to get some heat off Fred over his latest Media snafus.

Today, there is nothing to indicate the Age of Wilponianism has finally ended; not by a long shot.  There is only one alteration to the current situation.  The Saul B. Katz Dilemma now also becomes
David Einhorn's Dilemma as well.


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