A change in operators at Portland Meadows ends a protracted legal dispute, but does not restore stability to racing's future at the Oregon racetrack.Tom Moyer, a real estate developer and former movie theater magnate, purchased the right to operate Portland Meadows March 16 from Vancouver businessman Gene Ferryman, according to published reports. Moyer is one of 14 shareholders who own the racetrack and its 126-acre site.The purchase immediate ends a nasty legal battle between Portland Meadows' owners and Ferryman about a buyout provision of his lease. Ferryman argued he was entitled to the buyout when the lease expired April 2000, but the property owners resisted on the grounds Ferryman had violated the lease by not properly maintaining the racetrack. Moyer's purchase ended the litigation immediately, according to Moyer's attorney David Wiles.Moyer will not be a hands-on operator and is apparently looking for someone to run the racetrack. He could turn to Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment, which was negotiating with Ferryman until Moyer stepped in with a surprisingly good offer, according to Brian Ferryman, Portland Meadows' vice president and Gene Ferryman's son."Because of the pressure (from Magna), he wanted to step up and make it happen," Brian Ferryman told The Columbian. "It became a better offer than what Magna had on the table."Even with the lawsuit settled, the long-term future of racing in Oregon is still in doubt. Moyer has indicated racing will continue here for at least two or three years, but people close to the deal say Moyer is also interested in developing the property for commercial use, according to The Columbian. The racetrack is about a quarter-mile east of Interstate 5.Oregon Racing Commission executive director Steve Barham told The Columbian it is possible Magna could turn around and buy the operating rights from Moyer. He said Magna could also opt to build a new racetrack near Wilsonville, Ore., where the racing conglomerate has an option on some property. The land is about 15 miles south of downtown Portland.
Moyer and Graham Orr, Magna's chief financial officer, could not be reached for comment.