Memory of her father, trust in her brother led Karin Van Dyke to keep tracks

January 21, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Karin De Francis Van Dyke said yesterday that the memory of her father, the late Frank De Francis, and the confidence she has in her brother, Laurel/Pimlico operator Joseph De Francis, would not allow her to agree to sell majority interest in Laurel and Pimlico race tracks to out-of-town interests.

Mrs. Van Dyke, 34, said that to sell majority interest in the tracks "that both my father and my brother have put their blood, sweat and tears into did not seem right, especially to be forced out by a Western conglomerate. My father literally died giving his all to Maryland racing, and what Joe has had to go through with the overwhelming burden of dad's estate and the Manfuso litigation, has devoured so much of his time.

"I never get a headache. But this week I've gone through a whole bottle of Tylenol."

Mrs. Van Dyke played a pivotal role in the De Francis group's decision to turn down a lucrative deal with Hollywood Park and seek an alternative investor to buy out Tom and Bob Manfuso's interest in the tracks for $8.2 million.

Mrs. Van Dyke refused to sell her shares to Hollywood Park.

In turning down Hollywood Park's offer to buy majority control of Laurel and Pimlico from the De Francis group, Mrs. Van Dyke said she turned down $4.85 million.

Without Mrs. Van Dyke's shares, Hollywood Park could not have gained a significant majority of the stock in the tracks, according to Mr. De Francis.

"That's a lot of money to turn down, and I had to consider my own family's financial future," Mrs. Van Dyke said. "When I moved back here from the West Coast four years ago, my husband put a promising legal career on hold so we could sort out my father's estate."

Like most brothers and sisters, Mrs. Van Dyke said she and her 39-year-old brother "have had conflicts. But I have confidence not only in him, but in the health and future success of Maryland racing. What it comes down to is that we are truly family, and that not only includes Joe, but also Marty Jacobs."

Said Mr. De Francis: "It is Karin's feeling that Maryland racing should be kept in the hands of Marylanders. She was very close to our father, and we've had some gut-wrenching sessions this past week. To me, she is the heroine of this deal."

Mrs. Van Dyke earned a B.A. from Tulane University and a law degree from Georgetown University. She was a deputy district attorney in Orange County, Calif., when she met her husband, Bob, who was also a deputy district attorney and is now a track counsel for Laurel/Pimlico.

The Van Dykes live on Frank De Francis' former Maryland farm, Walnut Grove, and keep six horses, including two of her father's old campaigners, Stomp And Go and Karin's Clyde.

"One of my father's favorite sayings was that 'the strength of the wolf is in the pack,' " Mrs. Van Dyke said. "I guess he has passed his sheer strength and determination onto his children."

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