De Francis: I'll drop suit if Manfusos will settle

November 22, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Laurel/Pimlico track operator Joe De Francis said yesterday he will drop an attempt to appeal the Russian roulette clause of a stockholders' agreement and all other litigation that he has filed against his estranged partners, Tom and Bob Manfuso, if they will end the legal and track ownership disputes that they have with him.

It is part of the settlement offer that he has made to the Manfusos in an attempt to hasten the resolution of the ownership feud that has raged between the camps and was heightened on Oct. 12, when he received the Manfusos' offer to sell him their shares in Laurel and Pimlico for $8.2 million.

If the Manfusos are not inclined to agree with De Francis' settlement offer, "it contradicts the primary argument of their effort to block my move in the first step of the appeal process," De Francis said. "Their response [filed last Friday] claims that the court cannot make a final judgment on this one issue [the validity of the Russian roulette clause] because there are still a whole bunch of other claims to be resolved. That's exactly what I want to do -- resolve all of those other claims."

De Francis accused the Manfusos of stalling the Russian roulette process if they do not come to an agreement on the legal disputes.

"It is like buying a house that has liens against it," he said. "You settle the liens before you buy the house. The Russian roulette provision is nothing more than a monetary consideration. That can be addressed when the legal disputes are resolved."

De Francis added that he had no idea if the Manfusos have "a hidden agenda" if they refuse to settle the legal claims.

"My whole idea is to settle this dispute with them once and for all, no matter who ends up owning the tracks," he said.

Tom Manfuso said last night that he had just received the letter that details De Francis' settlement proposal and hasn't had an opportunity to study it fully.

"What we are doing is abiding by the judge's ruling that the Russian roulette is enforceable. We are complying with those requirements," Manfuso said. "I don't think any additional situations are necessary. It's as simple as that. We are ready to sell to him tomorrow, and we are also ready to buy from him tomorrow. . . . It seems to me the situation can very quickly be solved."

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