MEC Sells Great Lakes Downs in Lease-Back Deal

Magna Entertainment Corp. has sold Great Lakes Downs in a lease-back deal that will allow it to operate a live Thoroughbred meet at the western Michigan facility and pursue plans for Michigan Downs, a proposed racetrack in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Under Michigan law, a company can hold only one racetrack license. Great Lakes Downs was sold to Richmond Racing, a corporation owned by Jack Brothers, a long-time bloodstock agent and adviser to MEC chairman Frank Stronach.

In an Aug. 25 release, MEC said its wholly owned subsidiary, MI Racing, has the conditional right to lease and operate Great Lakes Downs, which features live racing from April through October and simulcasting year-round. MI Racing is expected to apply for 2005 racing dates at the track near Muskegon.

Michigan Racing Commissioner Robert Geake approved the license transfer from MI Racing to Richmond Racing Aug. 9.

Great Lakes Downs, formerly Muskegon Race Course, a harness track, opened in 1999 under new ownership as the lone Thoroughbred track in Michigan. Detroit Race Course ended live racing in November 1998.

Jerry Campbell, who at the time served as chairman of Republic Bancorp of Owosso, Mich., was majority owner of Great Lakes Downs when the facility opened for Thoroughbred racing. Campbell, a long-time Thoroughbred owner and breeder, later sold the track to Stronach and ended up serving as an MEC executive.

Michigan Downs, if built at a cost of about $100 million, would offer Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing, according to MEC. The Detroit metro area currently has two harness tracks that offer live racing and year-round multi-breed simulcasting. There has been no live Thoroughbred racing in or near the city since DRC closed.