Higher bid made for Calumet, but foreclosure step begins

December 07, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The stakes rose for Calumet Farm yesterday.

An unidentified group bid $32.5 million for the farm and all its stallion interests, well above the $26.27 million offer that surfaced last week.

But within a few hours of the second offer, Mutual Benefit Life, one of Calumet's main creditors, took the first step toward foreclosing on the farm.

"At these prices there won't be anything left for anybody," Henry Kinser, attorney for Mutual Benefit, said about the offers for the farm.

Mutual Benefit, which is owed more than $24 million, asked the bankruptcy court to lift its protection of Calumet. When Calumet filed for bankruptcy in July the court stopped all lawsuits by the farm's many creditors. Mutual Benefit, which has the first claim on the farm property, said Calumet had had enough time to work out a plan to pay its debt.

Kinser said Mutual Benefit's request would be considered at a bankruptcy court hearing Monday afternoon. If the protection is removed, he said, Mutual Benefit would go to court immediately to foreclose.

Mutual Benefit gave the court an appraisal that valued the farm, without any horses, at $24,586,000. That is well below Calumet's own appraisal, made in 1989, that said the farm was worth $42.5 million.

Mutual Benefit did not appraise the farm's remaining horses. Estimates on Calumet's stallions and stallion interests range from $8 million to $10 million.

Even if Calumet got top dollar for the farm and horses, it would be a long way from paying the $127 million debt that pushed it into bankruptcy. Calumet owes more than $53 million on the property alone.

Calumet secretary-treasurer Ron Sladon said the $32.5 million cash offer did not set out separate prices for the real estate, the stallions or other property.

Several elements of the offer are open to negotiation, Sladon said. Calumet and those making the offer hope to reach an agreement that can be presented to bankruptcy court before Christmas, he said. Any sale would have to be approved by the bankruptcy court.

Calumet, bound by a confidentiality agreement, did not say who made yesterday's offer for the historic thoroughbred farm.

Sladon said it was a group of six U.S. horsemen and investors. The horsemen included a "very well-known owner-breeder" as well as a prominent trainer, he said. The horsemen, although not based in Kentucky, have bought and raced horses here, Sladon said. He said the group also included a prominent lawyer.

The group plans to use Calumet as a horse farm, Sladon said. They agree with Calumet's plan to move the stallions to another farm for the 1992 breeding season.

A representative of the group approached Lexington Mayor Scotty Baesler yesterday to discuss the city's interest in maintaining Calumet as farmland. Baesler said Wednesday that he was exploring ways to prevent commercial development at Calumet. He is meeting with the Urban County Council today to discuss his ideas.

Last week American International Bloodstock Agency Inc. bypassed Calumet and filed its $26,275,000 offer for the farm and stallions directly with the bankruptcy court. Phil Owens, one of the principals in American International, said yesterday that he could not comment on the competing offer but added, "We're not dead yet." American International will appear at bankruptcy hearing Monday to discuss the offer.

While Sladon did not say who the possible buyers are, he said who they are not. The group does not include any of Calumet's current creditors, its business partners or former trainers. He said one of the people involved has been associated with Calumet but not in a "business investment type thing."

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