Frank Stronach, founder and chairman of Santa Anita parent company Magna Entertainment Corp., was in town over the weekend and involved in high-level meetings that could mean that the track is close to being sold.
It’s no secret that Magna is in debt up to its ear and that Stronach has been looking to sell off some of his tracks and/or gain partners to help shoulder some of the load. No luck yet, and Santa Anita is by far his most valuable track. Magna also owns other high-profile tracks such as Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, and a pair of Maryland tracks — Pimlico and Laurel.
No question that if Stronach were to sell Santa Anita now, he’d be selling low because of the depressed real estate market. He bought the track and 305 acres of surrounding land for $126 million in 1998, but it was reported last August that Magna was $229.8 million in debt due June 30, meaning something has to be done.
Stronach reportedly was in meetings with lawyers all weekend at Santa Anita’s popular Front Runner Restaurant, and where there’s smoke there is usually fire. Last year, Stronach admitted during an earnings conference call that Magna might have to sell 50 or 60 percent of Santa Anita to help alleviate its debt.