De Francis declines to address sale issue Loan default could affect tracks' minority stake

January 21, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Returning home after two weeks spent climbing mountains in Ecuador, Joe De Francis declined yesterday to shed light on the possible sale of a minority interest in Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park.

De Francis, principal owner of the tracks, said the loan agreement between the Maryland Jockey Club, of which he is president and chief executive officer, and the estate of former Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke contains a confidentiality clause.

"I have to respect that," De Francis said.

While De Francis was out of the country, reports surfaced that the Maryland Jockey Club was in default of an $8.2 million loan VTC secured in 1994 by Cooke, who died in April. De Francis used the money to buy out his former partners, Robert and John "Tommy" Manfuso.

The notes held by the Cooke estate contain a provision granting the holder rights to an equity stake in the tracks in the event of a default. That equity amounts to 47 percent of Pimlico and 25 percent of Laurel.

Asked whether devotees of horse racing in Maryland should be alarmed by this turn of events, De Francis said: "Fans and participants in the industry should not be alarmed by this. No one should be upset or concerned in any way."

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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