Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz

Anne M. Eberhardt

For Schwartz, It's All NYRA, All The Time

With the sale of Calvin Klein, look for Barry Schwartz to spend far more time around his passion: horses.

Klein, president of Calvin Klein, which the week of Dec. 16 announced it was being sold to Phillips-Van Heusen, said the deal would leave him more hours and energy to devote to his chairmanship of the New York Racing Association.

"I now plan to spend most of the time with NYRA at the tracks. I'm hoping to make a really, really positive contribution," Schwartz said. "It will give me a chance to focus more on things I've not had time to get into."

Schwartz co-founded the clothing maker with his boyhood friend, Calvin Klein, nearly 35 years ago. The sale will make Schwartz, who invested $10,000 in the company when it started in 1968, even richer. Though details of how much the two company founders will personally receive from the sale, they sold the company for $400 million in cash, plus $30 million in stock and up to $300 million in royalties.

When Schwartz first took over the NYRA chairmanship, he spent three days a week at Calvin Klein's Manhattan offices, and three days a week at the NYRA facilities. But in recent months, with the sale negotiations under way, Schwartz has only been making it out to the track on weekends. That has forced him to conduct NYRA business over the telephone or in meetings at Calvin Klein headquarters.

"I'd would get one call for Calvin Klein business, then NYRA, then Calvin Klein, then NYRA. It went back and forth all day," he said.

Schwartz said he now envisions a more hands-on approach in his work at NYRA. "I would like to be able to spend more time looking at every department here in greater depth, which has been very difficult to do," he said.

The timing of all this could be important for NYRA. The influence of NYRA has grown in the state legislature, in part because of relations Schwartz has built with Gov. George Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. NYRA has long been close to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Those ties will be tested in the coming months as NYRA, along with the state's other tracks, lobbies for the state to sweeten the split tracks are to receive under New York's video lottery terminal law. Tracks have not implemented gaming because they believe it would be a money loser. With a huge deficit facing the state, tracks believe the state will be more open early next year to amending the law.

"It seems to me the sentiment has shifted a bit," Schwartz said. "I believe the legislature is going to have to give up more if they want us to build these casinos."

Of course, NYRA has a particularly vested interest. A law on the books extends NYRA's franchise until 2012, but only if VLTs are up and running at Aqueduct by April 1, 2003 Schwartz believes that date will be pushed back. "I'm sure the governor realizes that's not possible now," he said.

And then there's Schwartz's nagging dream. "I still haven't given up on New York City OTB," he said of the operation NYRA has been pushing to purchase for years.

In the meantime, Schwartz said he's just going to enjoy the transition from splitting his duties between two demanding industries to being able to devote his complete attention to NYRA. "I'm very excited. I love my time out here," Schwartz said.