Howard County vet, partners hoping to buy Calumet Farm FTC

December 06, 1991|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Evening Sun Staff

Dr. Michael Cavey describes it as "the opportunity of a lifetime."

The 42-year-old Howard County veterinarian is one of three partners who have made the first, and so far, only formal offer to buy world-famous Calumet Farm. The three horsemen plan to maintain it as a first-class stallion station and breeding center and "return Calumet to its heyday," Cavey said.

The renowned Kentucky breeding establishment, birthplace of nine Kentucky Derby winners, has long been perceived as a sort of national treasure in the thoroughbred industry, but was placed in bankruptcy July 11, with debts totaling more than $127 million.

On Monday, Judge Joe Lee, chief judge of the U.S. bankruptcy court in Lexington, Ky., will rule on a motion filed by Cavey and his partners, Phil and Norman Owens of Lexington, to purchase the 827-acre landmark and its seven remaining thoroughbred stallions for $26.2 million.

Cavey said, "This is pretty heady stuff. I mean, the white fences of Calumet are the first thing you see when you fly into Lexington. It is something I had never even considered. But back in July, Norm and I kicked the idea around one morning, and it just sort of snow-balled."

Cavey, a Baltimore native who attended Woodlawn High School, is involved locally in the thoroughbred business with Adelaide Riggs IV, daughter of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Cavey and Riggs operate the 500-acre Happy Retreat Farm in Woodbine, which they have developed into a large breeding and training complex that houses 40 to 60 horses. Riggs currently has runners in training with D. Wayne Lukas and Mark Reid in New York and Philadelphia and recently hired Ben Perkins Jr. to train a local string.

Cavey gave up his veterinary practice three years ago to devote full attention to the thoroughbred business.

Cavey also owns the Holly Hill Training Center in Holly Hill, S.C., with Norman Owens. The training facility once served as the winter headquarters for Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

Cavey said "Mrs. Riggs is supportive, but not involved" in the Calumet deal.

Cavey has known the Owens brothers, who operate the American International Bloodstock Agency Inc. in Lexington, "for several years," Cavey said. "They are very successful in syndicating stallions and selling shares and breeding seasons. Mrs. Riggs and I have been doing business with them for a long time."

Norman Owens could not be reached yesterday, but his brother Phil said: "What we have done is make a solid cash offer. Under our proposal, Calumet will still be able to collect about $44 million in past receivables as well as the proceeds from all the 1991 stallion seasons it sold as well as foal-sharing arrangements. If anyone thinks our offer is too low, they have the right to make their own bid, and under the terms of our contract, we would then have the right to match that offer."

Owens said, "Mike, Norm and I are all young, we are committed to this business and we want to expand."

John Ward, trustee in charge of Calumet, said that "so far, the [Cavey-Owens] proposal is not meeting with support from the secured creditors I've talked to, but there is some [favorable] movement from the unsecured creditors."

Ward has overseen a layered liquidation of Calumet's assets. Sales of yearlings this summer and fall and the auctioning of 123 broodmares and their young offspring in November have netted the farm about $15 million.

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