Boyd Browning is the chief operating officer and executive vice president of Fasig-Tipton, which is scheduled to be sold to Synergy Investments, a Dubai-based company. Abdulla Al Habbai, a close associate of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, heads Synergy.
Browning discussed the deal with The Blood-Horse just hours after the agreement involving Synergy’s intent to acquire Fasig-Tipton was announced the afternoon of April 10.
How will this deal affect Fasig-Tipton?
“The management is going to stay in place. The employee group is going to stay in place. Business will continue as usual. You’re going to still have to put up with me and Walt (Robertson) and Terence (Collier). On a long-term basis, we are going to dream big and try to figure out if there are some ways we can improve our business and improve the sale business in general.”
How will this deal benefit Fasig-Tipton as a company?
“I hope there are benefits in a variety of ways. There are resources available to us that may not have been available to us in the past, in terms of dollars available, to aggressively look at facilities and expenditures in order to try to promote the game, to promote the business, and to do other things along those lines. I think the other thing that is important is the commitment from the buyer to basically reinvest what’s made, any operating surpluses, to promote high levels of customer service, to aggressively recruit new (Thoroughbred) owners, and to promote North American racing and breeding, so I think it’s a win-win situation for the industry.”
How did all this come about?
“It was remarkably unremarkable. We were approached by (Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager) John Ferguson on behalf of the buyer, who had expressed a level of interest. We discussed some range of evaluations and that information was shared with our key ownership component. They gave me some indications, and both sides were able to come to an agreement in terms of both the tangible elements of a purchase and the intangible elements of how the business was going to move forward, and they were in sync.”
What are the financial details of the transaction?
“We aren’t going to disclose any financial details.”
Have you met the new owner?
"Yes, I met Mr. Halbib in Dubai.”
What was the timeframe of the deal?
“It has happened basically in the last 35 to 45 days.”
What will be the goals of the new owner?
“The goals that have been communicated to me is to focus my time and attention on continuing a high level of service and producing sales at the top levels of the industry and the top levels of integrity. But I will also focus on how to improve and enhance the ability of our industry to attract new owners and new participants and service them well. That’s the focus of the ownership group.
“Ultimately, one of the goals and one of the elements of management’s initiatives will be to try to identify, in the future, not in June of 2008 but on a long-term basis, how to attract new people into the Thoroughbred industry, how to provide a better level of service to those people when they enter the industry so they have a positive experience, and how do we make the experience both in the sales and potentially in the racing world more enjoyable for those people who are involved in so that it is a dynamic, active, and vibrant industry. If that happens, everybody associated with our industry wins.”
You have shareholders. so how will this deal work?
"We still have shareholders. The transaction hasn’t closed yet. We have not had a shareholder meeting yet. The board has approved the transaction to sell substantially all the assets. Essentially, the new owner isn’t buying the stock, he’s buying the assets to the company. The assets will be sold for cash, and the cash will be distributed to the shareholders, and at some point, the corporation will be dissolved. It is subject to shareholder approval.
"I’m pretty confident, based upon what I know today, that it’s going to be approved by a majority of the shareholders. The shareholders always have approval, but as you might expect, we’ve got a pretty significant representation of our shareholders already spoken for. Basically, the new owner is acquiring the assets and will form a new legal entity. One of the assets the new owner is acquiring is the (company) name. It gets very complicated.”
What do the assets include besides the sale grounds in Kentucky and sale grounds in Saratoga?
"Tractors, trucks, trailers, desks, furniture, pens, pencils. The principal real estate involved will be the sale facilities in New York and Kentucky--approximately six acres in New York and approximately 200 acres here in Lexington.”
What about the sale facility at Lone Star Park in Texas?
“Basically, the new owner is acquiring Fasig-Tipton’s rights to and interests in that property.”
What about the facility at Timonium in Maryland?