Magna Appoints New President, CEO

Mark Feldman, executive vice president of E! Entertainment Television network, has been appointed president and chief executive officer of Magna Entertainment Corporation. Feldman, who will assume the position Aug. 7, succeeds Jerry Campbell, who will continue with the racetrack operating company on a part-time basis. In his most recent position, Feldman has been responsible for all of the core business operations at E! Entertainment, including all international ventures and sales, online operations, new business development and general administration.

An announcement from Magna said Feldman's experience in the media, entertainment, and Internet industries, coupled with his operational experience, will "be instrumental in furthering the Company's media sports wagering strategy and improving overall operating results."

The company also announced that Richard Goldberg, who recently joined the company as a consultant after serving as an executive at Direct TV, will assist Feldman with the media initiative.

Campbell, who will continue as a director and as a vice chairman of Magna following his resignation, will assist the company "in respect to various strategic initiatives, expansion of the company's shareholder base, and racetrack management." Campbell said he is going part-time because MEC wants all its top executives in Los Angeles, and he doesn't want to leave Michigan. Campbell said he wants to remain involved in Great Lakes Downs and in Republic Bancorp, where he is CEO.

Magna chairman Frank Stronach, said the management changes "will facilitate our pursuit of the opportunities in media distribution of racing and sports wagering…I would like to thank Jerry for his contributions in establishing the company and am delighted that he will continue to provide guidance and assistance to the management team as vice chairman."

Meanwhile, Magna has continued to buy up land in western New York as part of its efforts to build a track near Niagara Falls. When the company quietly began buying land last year, Magna officials said they were looking to build a racetrack, simulcasting facility, theme park, and a begin a high-speed ferry service to Toronto from the site. But within weeks of the state approval, Magna began backing off from its plans, at least publicly, insisting a new track in New York at that location could not compete with nearby Canadian tracks that offer slot machines.

But in the last few weeks, the company has, once again, gone ahead with another quiet round of land purchases at the location where it proposes building a track. The Buffalo News reported Magna purchased another 212 acres in Niagara County near the town of Porter. The four parcels cost $470,000.

Magna officials did not return calls for comment, but Angelo Massaro, a Niagara Falls lawyer who purchased the property for the operation, told the newspaper, “Magna is moving forward with its plans.” Another Magna source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Stronach “is trying to put this thing in a place where it can actually work economically for him—They're still looking to figure out a way to make it work.”

The company has also begun a push to allow any future track it opens to offer video lottery terminals. Massaro recently met with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, an avid Thoroughbred industry supporter, to push the VLT proposal, seen by industry insiders as a long-shot unless a whole series of other complex side deals are made with other tracks and off-track betting corporations. Harness tracks for years have been seeking approval for the machines. Presently, only two Indian-owned casinos in New York have permission for VLTs. Magna is also lobbying to get the state to begin a process to amend its constitution to permit casino gambling in certain areas of the state, a move which has failed several times over the past decade.

Bruno would not comment on the meeting with the Magna official, but his spokeswoman, Marcia White, confirmed the senator and Magna lawyer did meet.

Officials at the state Racing and Wagering Board, whose commissioners excitedly granted Magna executives several licenses to begin the process of developing a racetrack, were in the dark about the company's latest land purchase maneuver. “There's been no further action on it and we are as eager to understand what is happening here as anyone else,'” said Edward Martin, executive director of the racing panel.