Stronach: why is everyone picking on me?

MARYLAND HORSE RACINGPoor, poor, Frank Stronach. He’s just a guy who likes horses and racing and is trying to get things done around here. Why do these pesky Marylanders keep dragging him into their little quibbles?

That’s what it seems like the intention was behind a letter Stronach, chair of MI Developments, which owns Maryland’s two thoroughbred racetracks, released to the media Tuesday. You know, the same day he was named in a lawsuit by would-be casino developer David Cordish, who’s sore about Maryland’s racing interests getting in the way of his development planned 12 miles north of Laurel Park.  

The full text of the letter is below. Although he never mentions the lawsuit, the timing gives it away. Here, Stronach is trying to portray himself as a lover of racing — and he may well me. But whether he’s good for Maryland racing ... well, that’s another story. After all, I can count on one hand the number of times he’s set foot here since Stronach became affiliated with Maryland’s racetracks.

On Wednesday, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association’s general counsel sounded back, listing off Stronach’s recent sins such as MID and co-owner Penn National’s failed attempt to slash racing days in Maryland and MID subsidiary Magna’s failure to properly apply for a slots license (which is what many say started this whole Cordish vs. Racing mess in the first place.)

“While there have been numerous challenges over the years, the current situation facing Maryland racing is the most difficult I have ever seen,” Alan Foreman told the Paulick Report. “Our collective responsibility right now is to stabilize this historic industry (recently valued at $56 billion) in the short term as we consider long-term solutions. Mr. Stronach has made this a daunting task.”

Here’s the full Stronach letter:


At the Racing Commission hearing on December 21, 2010, I tried to be constructive by proposing that racetrack owners and horsemen work together to find solutions to the critical challenges facing our industry. We can no longer continue to ignore the fact that the horse racing industry – not only here in Maryland, but throughout America – has serious problems that threaten its very existence. The present business model in Maryland with regard to thoroughbred horse racing is broken – it simply doesn’t work, and unless we come up with a better model I’m fearful Horse Racing in Maryland will disappear, or be on a substandard level, and many jobs will be lost. This isn’t and isn’t intended to be a threat. My “track record” clearly shows I do not want this result and will continue to do everything I reasonably can to avoid it. However, if the tracks continue to lose money with no prospect of turnaround and have significant value as real estate, the inevitable can only be ignored for so long.

It is for that reason that the exchange with Mr. Alan Foreman at the December 21, 2010, hearing was so discouraging to me. In my career, I have had to deal with his kind of confrontational approach on numerous occasions and I have never found it productive. I believe that if there are to be solutions they will be found in a cordial and constructive exchange of ideas between the horsemen and the racetracks. On December 21, 2010 not only did Mr. Foreman make a number of statements that we can demonstrate to be inaccurate, he appeared to me to wish to foster the type of confrontational environment that may reward attorneys but doesn’t, in my view, advance matters. He did not make a single statement during the hearing suggesting that we sit down and try and solve the obvious problems or even acknowledge that the continual drain of money for racetracks is not sustainable. I would be both saddened and surprised if he was representing the actual position of Maryland horsemen at that hearing and the purpose of this letter is to offer to sit down with the horsemen, without lawyers, to have a candid and constructive exchange of views.

As you can tell from the foregoing, I still wish to believe in Maryland Horse Racing, and I still believe if the stake holders sit down we could come up with solutions to make this business one of great enjoyment for people that own and love horses and I am one of them. I hope my offer will be taken up.


Frank Stronach