In a vault somewhere on the island of Manhattan, the prospective partner of the New York Mets has a secret stash of gold. He is not saying where - hedge-fund heavyweights may be even better at keeping secrets than they are at turning profits - but his hunch is that gold is a good investment, so he has made his buys and piled up the bars, a glistening, gilded stack that he hopes will keep appreciating in blessed anonymity.
David Einhorn, founder of a firm called Greenlight Capital, doesn't win big with every investment he makes, but in the high-risk, huge-reward realm he operates in, he has done it often enough to become a very wealthy whiz kid in the $2 trillion hedge-fund world - and now a potentially big player in New York sports, a place that seems entirely fitting for a guy who has spent most of his 42 years wowing people with his precociousness. A government major at Cornell, Einhorn interned as a junior at the SEC's Office of Economic Analysis, and wrote a thesis on the cyclical regulation of the airline industry.
It won the highest academic honor in his department.
Fifteen years ago, Einhorn and then-partner Jeffrey Keswin founded Greenlight with just $900,000 in seed money - $500,000 from Einhorn's parents. Today the firm manages close to $8 billion.
Five years ago, Einhorn jumped in on the World Series of Poker and wound up finishing 18th - and winning $660,000, which he donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Clearly, this is a man whose mind moves quickly, and whose nerves are sturdier than Gibraltar.
"He's an outside-the-box thinker," says Whitney Tilson, who runs the T2 Partners hedge fund, as well as the annual Value Investing Congress, a conference where Einhorn is a regular speaker. "His portfolio doesn't look remotely like anybody else's. He does extraordinarily detailed work."
David Einhorn lives in the Westchester town of Rye with his wife and three children, takes the train to his office, a check swing away from Grand Central Station, and is said to be a big believer in the power of the afternoon nap. Just over six weeks ago, Einhorn emerged as the surprise winner of the sweepstakes to own a piece of the New York Mets, whose well-chronicled financial problems include $70 million in annual losses; an outstanding $25 million debt to Major League Baseball; and the ongoing specter of the $1 billion lawsuit filed against Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz by the Madoff Trustee, Irving Picard.