David Einhorn wants to get rid of Steve Ballmer and keep Fred Wilpon? What is he smoking?
Einhorn, president of the private investment firm Greenlight Capital, wants the Microsoft (MSFT) CEO fired because the company's stock has gone from $28 in January to $24 today. If he thinks that's bad, then he he must want Wilpon shot for what he's done to the Mets, the team Einhorn is about to buy into.
Forbes' Mike Ozanian says the value of the Mets, based on declines in revenue, has gone from $747 million to $700 million since March. And that's the optimistic projection. If you subtract all the team's debt obligations, the book value is around -$360 million.
And nearly all of that lost value is attributable to Wilpon. The Feds want Wilpon to return around $1 billion he got from Bernie Madoff. Then there is the team, which can generously be described as horrible. Park attendance and TV viewership have both collapsed. The Mets averaged 38,941 fans a game in 2009, their inaugural season at 41,800-seat Citi Field, seventh best among MLB's 30 clubs. That's dropped to at least 28,565 and it is widely believed that even that number is inflated. Tickets for a seat in the luxury boxes at Citi Field are going for $10 on the resale market.
Wilpon is currently saying the team will lose $70 million this year, and that's $10 million more than he was saying it would lose earlier in the year. He is further destroying value by loudly telling the press how bad the team's few decent players are.
Yet Einhorn is in the process of ponying up $200 million to become Wilpon's junior partner. In a conference call Einhorn told reporters, "Can't say I have any particular area of concern" about the team's financial situation, which he "expects will improve over time."
No surprise it is difficult to have a rational discussion about comparative value creation with someone who is spending nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on a hobby. Keep that in mind when assessing Einhorn's opinion of executives. Also keep in mind that whatever Microsoft's issues are, it makes money: The company's market cap is about $205 billion. But it's Steve Ballmer who needs to go.
After the speech in which Einhorn ripped into Ballmer, he began to walk off the stage. Then he abruptly turned around, went back to the microphone and said, "one more thing ... GO METS!"