John T. L. Jones Jr. in a paddock at Walmac Farm.

John T. L. Jones Jr. in a paddock at Walmac Farm.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Jones Sells Walmac to Son, Trussell

John T.L. Jones Jr. has sold Walmac International to entities controlled by his son, John III, and his son's former partner in several horse ventures, Bobby Trussell. The deal, signed Sept. 10, involves the farm's property but no stallion interests.

Trussell and Jones will be equal partners in the ownership of Walmac, located just outside Lexington. Trussell will put capital into the operation with the intent of securing future stallions.

The elder Jones began leasing Walmac in the 1960s and then started purchasing the land. He has had various partners along the way, among them Robert Sangster, William S. Farish, Marvin Warner, Alec Head, Roland de Chambure, and Red McCombs. Walmac has been a regular consignor at sales but is probably best known as the farm that stood top sires Nureyev, Alleged, and the recently pensioned Miswaki.

Jones' 46-year-old son and Trussell are buying the main 285-acre Walmac on Paris Pike, and also the 667-acre Bedford Farm on Hume-Bedford Road.

Trussell is the chief executive officer of Tempur-Pedic International, a leading manufacturer of mattresses and pillows, but he has extensive experience in the horse business. His partner has always worked in the horse industry, for many years now from his home in Houston.

John Jones III was co-founder (with Barry Weisbord) of the Matchmaker group of companies in the 1980s, which primarily traded seasons and shares. He plans to keep his home in Houston but relocate to Lexington.

"The stallion business has generally been a good business to be in, and a business I have some expertise in," Trussell said from his Lexington office. "We decided to enter into several partnerships that would enable us to own the equity in the farm and do future stallion deals. It also will allow Johnny to run the farm and Johnny Jr. to still be involved at a high level."

Trussell, 52, first worked for trainer John Nerud in New York and spent the winters with Woody Stephens' string in Aiken, S.C. He trained on his own for several years, based in Chicago. His first owner was his father, and his first winner, Ocrea, was at Keeneland in the spring of 1977.

In 1978, Trussell had some yearlings at Hawthorne when the track burned. He shipped to Latonia (now Turfway Park) in Northern Kentucky, and then left the track to take a job in the office at Gainesway Farm near Lexington. The farm was still owned by its founder, John Gaines.

Gainesway was one of the country's leading stallion stations at the time, and Trussell moved up in the organization, becoming director of sales and later being involved in the recruitment, syndication, and marketing of the stallions.

"It was really an exciting time, standing such horses as Lyphard, Riverman, Explodent, Green Dancer, Vaguely Noble..." he said.

In 1985, Trussell and Jim Philpott started Stallion Management Services, but it launched as the market was taking a downturn and did not last. From 1987 to 1991, Trussell, Philpott, and John Jones III operated Live Foal, a stallion season arbitrage company that converted no-guarantee seasons to live foal seasons.

As unsuccessful as Stallion Management Services was, Live Foal was just the opposite. But when its equine lender went bust, no other bank would pick up the financing. So, Trussell continued buying yearlings to syndicate and race in England with trainer Ben Hanbury and France with trainer Alain Falourd.

In a twist of fate, Falourd introduced Trussell to a Swedish chiropractor who was working on one of his horses. That person in turn convinced Trussell to visit Stockholm and meet Mikael Magnusson, who was beginning his mattress-making company using a product developed by NASA. They also had a common interest: a love for horses.

Trussell obtained the North American distribution rights with the pledge to sell 10,000 units the first year. He sold 70.

He persevered, and this year, Tempur-Pedic will reach $600 million in sales worldwide. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange last December.

Trussell bought two mares at the 2002 Keeneland November sale and three more in 2003. The mares are boarded at Taylor Made Farm. He also has an interest in five horses in training. Two of those runners are trained by Magnusson in Lambourn, England.

"The mattress business is what caused me to get out of the horse business," Trussell said. "Now, it has provided my avenue back in."