Magna Continues Pursuit of Possible Track Acquisitions

From the West Coast to the East Coast, Frank Stronach is looking to increase his Magna Entertainment holdings. Company officials are talking with representatives of Fairmount Park in Illinois, Portland Meadows in Oregon, and Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts about possible acquisitions.

Meanwhile, Magna apparently has abandoned its plan to build a track in Dixon, Calif., not far from Sacramento, because of public opposition. The company owns Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields, both in the San Francisco Bay area.

In Oregon, Magna recently signed a letter of intent to buy Portland Meadows and Multnomah Greyhound Park. "Basically, all we've done is sign a letter of intent," said Don Amos, Magna's vice president and chief operating officer. "We're still looking at the feasibility and exploring all possibilities."

If Stronach strikes a deal with Bill Stiritz, Fairmount Park's principal owner, the track across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Mo., would give Magna a presence in Illinois, where Churchill Downs Inc. recently gained entry with the purchase of Arlington International.

Brian Zander, chief financial officer at Fairmount, couldn't be reached for comment. Stiritz purchased the track, along with its four off-track betting parlors and the entitlement rights to three future OTB parlors, in January for $15.5 million from Ogden-Fairmount Inc.

Ron Volkman, a Magna Entertainment director, said he couldn't comment on the negotiations with Fairmount, but he did say, "We are looking at opportunities all over the country right now, and feel very good about the future of racing."

Legislation -- or the lack thereof -- could send the Massachusetts pari-mutuel industry reeling Jan. 1, 2001 if the legislature fails to adopt new laws, but Magna has talked to officials at Suffolk Downs, which is owned by Sterling Suffolk Ltd. The partnership, headed by James Moseley, purchased the 190-acre property in 1997 for $40 million.

Lou Raffeto, general manager at Suffolk, said track management and representatives from Magna have discussed a possible acquisition. "Magna has shown an interest in Suffolk Downs, as they have in several other tracks, but the talks are only in the very early preliminary stages," he said. "Nothing has moved along very far."

In addition to Bay Meadows and Golden Gate, Magna owns Gulfstream Park in Florida, Santa Anita Park in Southern California, Thistledown in Ohio, Remington Park in Oklahoma, and Great Lakes Downs in Michigan.