Angelos family delays closing deal on Rosecroft

Details of a track debt, not slots' fate, seen as key

August 14, 2004|By Greg Garland and Tom Keyser | Greg Garland and Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

With the debate over allowing slots at racetracks and other locations in Maryland still unsettled, the family of Baltimore lawyer Peter G. Angelos has delayed closing a deal it struck in June to buy Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County.

But Angelos, the majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, and representatives of the harness-racing track insist that they are still actively negotiating to complete the sale, regardless of how the slots issue is resolved.

"The deal certainly is not dead, but presently it has not been consummated," Angelos said yesterday.

He added, "The purchase price is not in dispute, but there are other considerations where there has not been a meeting of the minds."

John Davey, an attorney for Rosecroft's owners, said the two sides are negotiating details relating to a $7.2 million loan from the Angelos family to repay a debt Rosecroft owes to one of its previous partners, Northwind Racing Inc.

"I see no reason why it shouldn't be resolved by early next week," Davey said.

Angelos said he can't predict whether the two sides will be able to reach an agreement.

But he insisted that the delay in working out a deal for the Rosecroft purchase has nothing to do with doubts or uncertainty about how the slots issue will be resolved in Maryland.

Angelos said he believes it is inevitable that Maryland will decide to legalize slots, as other states in the region have done.

"The fact that that's a potential here made the opportunity [to buy Rosecroft] all the more attractive," he said. "The racetrack as such can be a profit-producing entity" even without slots.

Davey said any potential Rosecroft buyer would have to consider in its offer the uncertainty over whether Maryland will approve slots for the track.

"It's a calculated risk any potential buyer has to evaluate," he said.

Experts say Rosecroft is potentially one the most lucrative venues for slot machines in Maryland because of its location in Oxon Hill, just off the Capital Beltway near Washington and Northern Virginia.

Angelos has been a major Democratic donor and, more recently, a supporter of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. He has stature in Annapolis, where lawmakers have for two years been debating the legalization of slots at racetracks and other locations. Ehrlich supports slots.

When Rosecroft's owners selected the Angelos family to buy the track, they said they hoped his political influence would help in getting a slots bill approved.

But the slots debate remains stalled.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch set a Monday deadline for Ehrlich to decide whether to place a constitutional amendment on gambling before voters.

The General Assembly would have to meet in special session by Sept. 8 for a measure to be put on the ballot this November.

But Ehrlich opposes the referendum idea and disagrees with Busch's proposal for slots casinos on state-owned land, rather than concentrating them mostly at privately owned racetracks.

"The governor remains steadfastly opposed to amending the constitution for slots," said Paul E. Schurick, an Ehrlich spokesman. "It's silly."

Major League Baseball rules generally prohibit Angelos from being involved in gambling while he is a team owner.

But a group that includes Angelos' wife, Georgia, and sons Louis and John was selected by Rosecroft's owners in June to buy Rosecroft for $13 million.

Davey said the $7.2 million loan to Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., the corporate entity that owns Rosecroft, is to pay off the note owed to Northwind and was a "precondition to entering a sales contract with the Angelos family."

He confirmed that the Angelos family did not make the payment when it was originally due in mid-July.

Northwind - a partnership between the owners of the Philadelphia Park racetrack, Laurel veterinarian Mark Ricigliano and Greenwood Racing - has been seeking repayment of the $7.2 million it is owed.

At a court hearing in Prince George's County this week, Northwind agreed to a 50-day extension of a temporary restraining order that blocks Northwind from seizing Rosecroft's cash or attempting to foreclose on the property.

Davey said that allows Cloverleaf more time to try to work out an acceptable agreement with Angelos or other potential buyers.

Rosecroft has agreed to extend the Angelos family's deadline to close the deal from Aug. 31 to Oct. 31 with no penalty. At closing, the $7.2 million would be credited to the purchase price of $13 million.

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