Vogel pulls out of Rosecroft operation, at state's behest

September 21, 1990|By Dale Austinand Ann LoLordo Rafael Alvarez of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

Mark R. Vogel, the wealthy Prince George's county developer arrested on drug charges last week, has agreed to a state Racing Commission request that he stay out of the operation of the Rosecroft Raceway harness track he owns near Oxon Hill, his lawyer confirmed last night.

The commission asked Mr. Vogel to step aside after it learnethat, over the past year, he had taken about $2 million from "racing-generated funds" to pay debts unrelated to track operations, according to sources familiar with the agreement.

Mr. Vogel's lawyer, Paul Mark Sandler, confirmed last night that "Mr. Vogel has agreed to remove himself from management responsibilities in the racetrack. The decision is based upon Mr. Vogel's belief that his personal problems should not be the problems of the racetrack and the racing industry."

The move came a week after the 42-year-old Prince George's Countyentrepreneur was charged with possession of cocaine in Virginia in a case that sources said stemmed from an ongoing federal investigation.

The Racing Commission's action appeared to stem froconcerns about the track owner's financial problems and the impact they might have on racing revenues.

Mr. Sandler said that Mr. Vogel has "agreed to refrain from taking any proceeds from the track until the resolution of the pending criminal case."

"Mr. Vogel never believed his withdrawing proceeds from the track were improper under the circumstances, having invested millions of dollars of his own funds to acquire the tracks," he said.

Mr. Vogel will sign an agreement today that gives the general manager of Rosecroft, James Murphy, operational control of the track, a racing source said.

"He has agreed to relinquish his involvement in the operation on afinancial basis," said one source familiar with the actions of the commission. "We can tell that money has been going out for the past year.

"If they [Mr. Vogel] didn't agree to this, it was going to wind up in court. And it would be a long fight," the source said.

The commission also intends to monitor the daily receipts of the track, the sources said. In the year ended Sept. 30, 1989, the track showed a $1.1 million deficit, according to an audit released in March. But this week, Mr. Murphy, the general manager of Rosecroft, said the the track was a "comfortably profitable operation."

Mr. Vogel also owns Delmarva Downs in Ocean City, the only other harness track in Maryland. Delmarva is closed for the winter.

In recent months, the financial empire built by Mr. Vogel has shown signs of difficulty. Mr. Vogel, who amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune in land deals, has defaulted on two loans, leading to an auction next week of one of his multimillion-dollar Prince George's County projects.

A week ago, Mr. Vogel was arrested in Northern Virginia by Fairfax County police at the request of a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent. In a search of Mr. Vogel's 1990 Chevrolet Corvette, police said they found 4 grams of cocaine and charged Mr. Vogel with possession of the drug, a felony.

Racing Commission members were already seeking to ensure that Mr. Vogel's financial troubles did not spill over into the Rosecroft operation. Under state law, the commission has broad powers to safeguard the integrity of the racing industry.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said the commission's decision did not surprise him. "It's a quasi-public enterprise. The racing days belong to the state of Maryland, not to the private enterprise," he said.

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