De Francis tries to preserve ties with proposed Texas track Merger could end consultant's role

August 03, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Last week, it looked as if Maryland Jockey Club operators would be squeezed out of their roles as management consultants to a new track in Texas.

But don't count them out yet, Pimlico/Laurel executive Joe De Francis said yesterday.

De Francis will leave for Dallas tomorrow to meet with Lone Star Jockey Club officials, who announced a surprising merger about 10 days ago with one of their former rivals, veteran racing executive R. D. Hubbard of Midpointe Racing.

The Texas Racing Commission paved the way for approval of the merger yesterday. The board voted by a 3-1 margin to allow Hubbard, who had purchased a Class 2 license in Longhorn Downs -- which had never been built -- to move that permit to land he owns in the Dallas-Fort Worth area across the road from the proposed Lone Star track.

Lone Star, with De Francis' help, had won the license to build a new $96 million track at its Dallas-Fort Worth site in the town of Grand Prairie last fall, beating out three other applicants, including Hubbard, who also is the majority owner of Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.

But the Lone Star plans went awry about a month ago when a Texas district court judge ruled in a suit initiated by Hubbard that the racing commission had violated state administrative law during the licensing hearing, invalidating Lone Star's license.

Even though De Francis said the judge's ruling was made on a technicality, appeals could have tied the case up for years. That prompted the mayor of Grand Prairie to step in and persuade Lone Star and its rival Hubbard to merge so that the track, considered to be an economic boon to the town, could be built.

Where that leaves De Francis is still to be decided. He and Hubbard are not exactly enemies, but they aren't friends either. Bob Manfuso, one of De Francis' estranged partners in the ownership of Pimlico/Laurel, serves on Hubbard's board of directors at Hollywood Park.

De Francis said he is going to Dallas to "negotiate terms and conditions on how we'll proceed" under the new merger with Hubbard.

Formerly, in exchange for consulting services, De Francis and two other Pimlico/Laurel executives, Marty Jacobs and Jim Mango, shared a 50-50 management fee with their Lone Star partners, Jim Musselman and Preston Carter, and also received 10 percent of the equity in the track "although that has been diluted (to less than 7 percent) as more partners were brought in," De Francis said.

If a deal can't be struck where Lone Star works amicably with Hubbard, De Francis, Jacobs and Mango, "then everyone will do what they have to do to protect their interests," De Francis said. "But I'm optimistic things can be worked out. If [Pete] Angelos and [William] Dewitt can get together to buy the Orioles, I don't see why we can't get together with Dee Hubbard. Too many people want to see that this track gets built."

De Francis added that he feels it's important that Maryland have a continued role in the Texas project to insure participation in any future regional simulcasting alliances.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.