Rosecroft, Delmarva up for sale Two groups show interest

August 14, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Less than two years after they were purchased by Colt Enterprises Inc., Maryland's two harness tracks, Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington and Delmarva Downs near Ocean City, are for sale.

So far there are two potential buyers: a group called the Top

Speed Entertainment Co. that is connected with the Hanover Shoe Farms in Hanover, Pa.; and Arnold Stansley, a racing executive in Toledo, Ohio, who is also making an application to build a track in Virginia.

Kenneth Weckstein, a 40-year-old Washington lawyer who is also an avid amateur harness driver, said that about a month ago he had heard that the two Standardbred tracks might be for sale. Weckstein said he then received a letter on July 28 from Coleman Bean, attorney for Colt Enterprises, saying that Colt is "definitely interested in selling Delmarva and Rosecroft."

Weckstein added: "The talks have now progressed to the point where we are speaking to the bank that holds the loans. We've developed a business plan, have a lot of ideas and have gotten actual numbers and projections on how we're going to proceed."

Weckstein said his two main partners in the venture are Scott Leaf, a dentist from Fairfax, Va., and Russell Williams, a lawyer who is also vice president of Hanover Shoe Farms, called the Calumet Farm of the Standardbred industry. All are amateur drivers and own and breed harness horses.

"We are very interested and very serious," Weckstein added. "We're putting the finishing touches now on our financing process. I have a lot of corporate and large clients that are interested in becoming investors as well as the core group of insiders that are breeders and owners."

Weckstein said he understands that the tracks' current owner, wealthy Los Angeles businessman and art collector Fred Weisman, 82, wants to sell "for personal reasons. Also the tracks are bleeding his company with losses -- $2.5 million in 1992 and a projected $2 million loss this year."

Weisman purchased the tracks for $18.3 million in November 1991 from Mark Vogel, a Washington-area real estate developer who had filed for bankruptcy protection and whose activities were being investigated by the FBI.

Weckstein said he believes the tracks can be bought "in the $18 million range."

Weisman's office in Los Angeles referred inquiries to its accountant, Mitchell Reinschreiber, who did not return repeated phone calls.

Bean was out of town yesterday and the tracks' treasurer, John Kuhn, referred inquiries to the tracks' president, Ted Snell.

Snell said he didn't know "if the tracks are for sale. They are not listed and no one has come forward. If they are, it's three or four months away from happening."

Kenneth Schertle, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, acknowledged yesterday that his office has received inquiries from parties interested in obtaining financial information on the tracks.

"John Kuhn hasn't come to me and said the tracks are for sale," Schertle said. "But I know there are people interested in it and I know they are talking."

Schertle added that the $2.5 million loss incurred by Rosecroft-Delmarva in 1992 was "not a cash loss."

Stansley, who is associated with a group that owns half of Raceway Park harness track in Toledo, Ohio, as well as a third of Trinity Meadows, a flat-racing operation in Fort Worth, Texas, also said he is looking into the purchase of Rosecroft/Delmarva.

"We have some numbers and we're looking over them," Stansley said. "We expect more numbers in three or four days and then I'll have a better idea."

Freehold Raceway, which is owned by Kenneth Fischer of Essex Fells, N.J., is also rumored to be interested in acquiring the two Maryland tracks. But yesterday Freehold's general manager, Ed Ryan, said, "we've heard on the streets they're for sale. But to my knowledge, we have no intentions of buying them and have never looked at their numbers."

Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis said he knows "there are a lot of rumors swirling about" concerning the possible sale of the tracks. "We're at an important juncture of a cross inter-tracking program with them and we're reaching a point where we need to negotiate terms on how we're going to go forward. It's of great significance who the owners are and if we can work with them. But until I hear differently, I assume that party is Colt."

Weckstein said his group is excited about the possibilities of added off-track betting, increased simulcasting opportunities and a potential relationship with a track in Virginia.

Even though Colt has been losing money, Weckstein said he attributed some of that to bad luck. "For instance, their grandstand at Rosecroft burned down a month after they bought the tracks," he said.

Even though Colt was reimbursed with restricted funds to rebuild the structure, it interrupted business and reduced the room for customers. "I think we [Top Speed Entertainment Co.] can bring something new to the equation: a keen desire to make the tracks succeed. We love the sport and have confidence in it's future," Weckstein said.

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