The New York Mets briefly began talks with other bidders for a minority ownership stake in the franchise, but still expect to close a deal with David Einhorn, sources told ESPNNewYork.com.
Einhorn's exclusive window to buy 33 percent of the team for $200 million expired in July, but the Mets issued a statement Wednesday saying that "exclusive negotiations" are ongoing with Einhorn.
"We are in exclusive negotiations with David Einhorn and continue to have positive and productive discussions regarding David's ongoing interest in an investment in the Mets," the Mets said in a statement.
The Mets had previously said there were no problems with the negotiations with Einhorn and the two sides were still working out the deal, which is now considered likely to be finalized sometime in August.
Just a week after commissioner Bud Selig said Einhorn has no significant obstacles remaining to becoming minority owner of the Mets, sources told the New York Daily News that he now finds himself competing with three other bidders, including commodities trader Ray Bartoszek.
A source familiar with the situation told ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin on Wednesday that Einhorn's deal with the Mets isn't in trouble. That information was echoed by a Daily News source.
"The deal with Einhorn is on track," a source told the Daily News. "But the exclusivity period has expired and the Wilpons are free to talk to other parties."
"He's being prickly on a couple of areas, and he thought he had them over a barrel," another person familiar with the deal told the newspaper, "so they're talking to other bidders."
The newspaper reported that Einhorn's bid wasn't even the best that the Mets received, but he has known Selig for years. Selig jokingly admitted as much last week.
"What the hell, he played baseball in my backyard. How can I turn him down?" Selig said, referring to Einhorn's growing up in Milwaukee and playing baseball in a yard neighboring Selig's house. "... Yes, he's cleared. They have to finish the deal. And, by the way, I think they're making very good progress toward that end."
The newspaper did not report what other groups the Mets had been talking to.
If the Einhorn deal goes through, Einhorn will have the option of upping his stake to roughly 60 percent in three to five years, a source told Rubin. That option can be blocked if the Wilpons return Einhorn's $200 million and allow him to keep one-sixth ownership of the team.
The sides hoped to have a deal completed by late June.