LOS ANGELES -- Santa Anita Park, as recently as early 1990, entered into secret discussions with a board member of Hollywood Park that would have led to the elimination of racing at the Inglewood, Calif., track and the transfer of most of those dates to Santa Anita.
Santa Anita went so far as to commission a major study that included a map of Hollywood Park property to be sold and the redistribution of racing dates.
Information about the plan was obtained by the Times through court documents and depositions filed in conjunction with the Hollywood Park takeover attempt by R.D. Hubbard, owner of racetracks in New Mexico and Kansas. Hubbard was not involved in any of the secret meetings with Santa Anita.
The unsuccessful proposal, interchangebly called "merger," "acquisition" and "takeover" in depositions of top Santa Anita officials, was called the "Century City Project." Code words were used whereby Santa Anita was called "King" and Hollywood Park "Queen" in official correspondence about the plan.
An executive summary of the plan, prepared in January 1990 by Merrill Lynch, listed as its major objectives:
"King will acquire Queen in a transaction structured to optimize the dividend payout level to King's present stockholders. Live racing will be discontinued at Queen, with Queen's racing dates to be transferred principally to King. The pavilion at Queen will be used exclusively as a year-round simulcast facility. The end of live racing at Queen will free up approximately 200 acres of land at Queen, which will be developed by King over the next 10 years in a mixture of commercial, retail and residential projects."
Santa Anita officials soured on the idea when Marje Everett, chief executive officer of Hollywood Park, objected strenuously to the plan. She learned about it at a meeting she thought was held to discuss the use of Santa Anita announcer Trevor Denman at both tracks.