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) -- The New York Mets agreed to sell a minority stake to David Einhorn, president of hedge fund

Greenlight Capital

, for about $200 million.

Einhorn's purchase would give Mets owner Fred Wilpon important liquidity to help pay back debts -- including a loan taken by Major League Baseball in November --- and to cover the team's operating costs.

"We are very excited about David joining our ownership group for several reasons," Wilpon said in a statement Thursday. "David's investment immediately improves the franchise's financial position."

Einhorn said, "Having an opportunity to become part of the Mets franchise is exciting beyond my wildest childhood dreams. I spent my first seven years living in New Jersey and rooting for the Mets ... I look forward to partnering with the Wilpon and Katz families through the good seasons, the tough seasons and especially the championship seasons."

The deal comes as Wilpon faces a $1 billion lawsuit from the trustee who represents victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

The Mets used Madoff's investment firm to invest deferred money -- money athletes get paid after they quit playing -- for some of the team's star athletes.

After the Ponzi scheme collapsed, trustee Irving Picard suspected that Wilpon, who owns the private-equity firm

Sterling Partners

, may have had deeper connections with Madoff.

Court documents revealed the Mets earned about $48 million in Madoff's scheme. Wilpon has denied allegations that he had any knowledge of the Ponzi scheme and that the Mets were tied to it.


Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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