Board OKs sale of Rosecroft to veterinarian-led group

Track stands to benefit if slots win approval

December 21, 2003|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

The board of directors for Rosecroft Raceway voted yesterday to sell the harness track in Prince George's County to a partnership headed by a veterinarian who has been affiliated with the track for 18 years, passing up offers from Las Vegas casino company giant Harrah's Entertainment, a group headed by the lawyer son of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos and other higher-profile bidders.

Thomas Chuckas, Jr., chief executive officer of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., said the board of the nonprofit group that governs Cloverleaf voted 13-4 to sell the track to Northwind Ricigliano Partnership. The principal investor and majority partner is Mark Ricigliano, he said.

"Dr. Ricigliano has been involved in racing for over 20 years," Chuckas said. "He has provided veterinarian services to horsemen at Rosecroft for 18 years."

Chuckas declined to reveal the terms of the deal negotiated with Northwind Ricigliano but said the track's current owners would benefit from slots revenue if the General Assembly decides next year to legalize slots and includes Rosecroft as one of the venues.

Rosecroft is owned by the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association, a group of 980 horse owners, trainers, drivers and others interested in racing, according to the association's Web site. None of the horsemen owns individual shares of stock in CSOA, Chuckas said. Voting control over the 100 shares of stock rests with an 18-member board of directors.

Ricigliano, who is listed as a member of Cloverleaf's board of directors on the association's Web site, also owns Laurel-based LightWave Communications, which provides local phone services in Maryland. He could not be reached for comment last night.

Chuckas said he did not have information immediately available late yesterday about other investors involved with Ricigliano in the partnership that is buying Rosecroft, which is just off the Capital Beltway and is considered by gambling experts as potentially the most lucrative racing site in Maryland for a slots emporium.

Chuckas said that as a precondition to the sale, Northwind Ricigliano will seek a minority equity partner in the range of 20 percent to 30 percent. He said the group retained the Pembroke group in Washington, an African-American investment firm, to assist it in finding a minority equity partner.

"That process is under way," Chuckas said. "Estimates are it will be completed within the next 45 days."

Chuckas said the board voted to select Northwind Ricigliano after a series of meetings that started shortly before noon yesterday and ended about 5 p.m.

"I believe the COSA board of directors and the committee that was charged with analyzing, reviewing and negotiating with the potential buyers did their job professionally," Chuckas said. "The process seemed to work very, very well, and I think at the end of the day, that the horsemen received an excellent deal.

"The way the deal works, the benefits will inure through racing days, purses and the like," Chuckas said. He said the horsemen would get their share of any slots money -- if slots are approved -- through supplements for purses, which is the money paid to owners of top- finishing horses.

"I believe that the goals that were originally established -- reducing the risks to the horsemen and creating short-term benefits from racing opportunities and purse levels to some longer-term objectives -- have been achieved," Chuckas said.

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