Vogel, in debt, seeks to sell 2 tracks

October 02, 1990|By C. Fraser Smith

Mark R. Vogel, the Prince George's County developer who faces a drug charge and deepening financial problems in his multimillion-dollar enterprises, has put his two harness racing tracks up for sale, according to his lawyer, Paul Mark Sandler.

Mr. Sandler said the sale would occur only if a buyer offered what Mr. Vogel thought was a fair price. He would not say how much his client wanted for the two tracks -- Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill and Delmarva Downs outside Ocean City.

Mr. Vogel paid approximately $11 million for the two tracks in 1987.

"It's not a fire sale," Mr. Sandler said. "The tracks are valuable and doing well. If he doesn't get what he deems to be appropriate value, he won't sell."

Mr. Vogel already had agreed to remove himself from the operational and financial control of the two tracks. The Maryland Racing Commission asked him to step aside after it learned that he had taken more than $2 million from "racing-generated funds" from Rosecroft to cover debts unrelated to the track.

The 42-year-old developer, who denies any improper dealing at his tracks, faces a trial Oct. 15 on a cocaine possession charge. He was arrested Sept. 13 while driving in the Great Falls area of Northern Virginia. The charges grew out of a federal grand jury investigation of Mr. Vogel that includes an inquiry into political corruption among developers in the county.

Mr. Sandler said his client would plead innocent to the drug charge. He said Mr. Vogel denied any involvement in political corruption.

The decision to sell the tracks was for "personal reasons," Mr. Sandler said, declining to elaborate.

Financial problems associated with Mr. Vogel's real estate holdings and other matters have grown increasingly severe. He has defaulted on two loans and owes $606,485 in federal income taxes for 1988. Last month, he paid $115,000 of a $310,000 judgment filed in a dispute with a former racetrack employee.

Mr. Sandler said any sale would be subject to the "approval of any regulatory agency required in such a transaction."

In 1989, after Mr. Vogel bought the former Freestate Raceway in Laurel from Frank J. De Francis, now deceased, the legislature established a "whole series of investigatory maneuvers that must be done by the Racing Commission," said Bruce Spizler, assistant attorney general assigned to the Racing Commission.

Any individual who wishes to purchase a track, Mr. Spizler said, is subject to a personal and financial background investigation. The results of the investigations are forwarded to the General Assembly's Legislative Policy Committee, a joint panel of the House and Senate.

The new regulations were passed when terms of the sale by Mr. De Francis to Mr. Vogel -- terms that transferred the racing days as well as the property -- created what the legislature felt amounted to monopolistic ownership of the tracks.

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