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Saturday, June 02, 2007

War of Words Heating Up

- In what is the most heated, direct confrontation between or among the New York franchise bidders, Empire, NYRA, and Excelsior have all adamantly and specifically insisted that their version regarding what may, or may not have occurred between NYRA and Excelsior is the truth.

"Jeff Perlee's letter alleging recent meetings between New York Racing Association Inc. and Excelsior Racing LLC in violation of anti-collusion provisions in the New York State thoroughbred racing franchise review process is a complete fabrication," [Charles] Hayward said. "No NYRA executive or board member has engaged in discussions with anyone from Excelsior with regard to the franchise review process since bids were submitted to the state in August 2006. [Saratogian]

Excelsior said: "The alleged meeting did not take place, nor did any of the conversations referenced in the letter to Mr. Rifkin." [DRF]
A spokesperson for Empire replied:
Trust is paramount in a public franchise. Credibility, with the public, the state’s horsemen and with our State leaders has, unfortunately, not been a hallmark of the present racing operator. We stand by the credibility and the authority of the information which we relayed to the Governor and the Comptroller and we are confident in their ability to investigate and take appropriate steps.
It's hard to believe that any of the bidders would be making things up at this stage, especially with their Integrity on display. I don't think anyone would be surprised if the two had met; it seems a logical combination given Excelsior being short on the racetrack management side. NYRA and Excelsior could spin contact between them many different ways - perhaps simply as the Ad Hoc Committee selection and the current franchise holder meeting at some point to discuss transitional and legal issues with the end of the year fast approaching. And would anyone really be surprised if the State has their backs on any discussions? So I'm a bit taken by the specificity and forcefulness of Hayward's denials. But even here, there's some wiggle room; when he says "with regard to the franchise review process," he leaves open the possibility that the two met to speak about something else.

Empire has toned down the nasty and misleading rhetoric it employed last year, though Hayward made sure to add that: "Empire Racing's management consistently and inappropriately mischaracterizes and misrepresents the facts of NYRA's business operations and practices." They've tried to stay more positive, and I'd be rather surprised if, at this stage, they would be making these statements without something solid on which to base it. And I suspect it was probably more than Charles Hayward and Richard Fields bumping into each other in a deli and talking about BLT's.

But even if NYRA and Excelsior were doing exactly what Empire is accusing them of, I'd be shocked if any action whatsoever was taken against either of them. Empire claims that there were non-collusion documents. It added that any talks between NYRA and Excelsior could also substantially change the bids by the two entities, which would violate rules about proposals changing after a deadline imposed by the state. But the rules, and, indeed, the proposals have been changing constantly ever since the Ad Hoc Committee concluded its business. If Spitzer wants to say that the rules that had been established for that little exercise are no longer in effect, he can certainly do so. If we were still playing by the original rules, Capital Play wouldn't even be involved.


Anonymous said...

When was the last time Empire had anything positive to say? I'm just surprised that Magna, Churchill and Woodbine haven't jumped ship.

Everyone expects bad behavior from Jeff Perlee - he's like a desparate politician trying to get elected, but why aren't these three being held accountable for the derogatory statements that Empire has repeatedly made about NYRA?

Alan Mann said...

What I meant is that they've focused more on highlighting what they think is good about themselves than trashing the opposition by playing loose with the facts. I'll tell ya man, they better have something solid here, otherwise they're going to look pretty foolish.

Anonymous said...

I like the job Hayward has done under duress, but his statement is pure swiss cheese.

"No meetings have occurred". No shit.

Anyone know how to set up a conferance call?

Or meet with an intermediary from Spitzers office?

Where there is smoke there is fire.

Empire has made mistakes along the way, but like Alan said they better be right in this case or out the door they go.

Of course, if their allegations have merit they have 1.5 feet out the door already.

Off topic, anyone know if that oil pipeline that runs through the airport neighborhood runs under or near the Big A?

Anonymous said...

Empire is sounding deperate, for sure. My guess is that NYRA will become the operations side of the Exelsior racing franchise; haven't heard anything further about Wynn dropping out on the casino side. His stock- Wynn Resorts- has been a winner, in fact a 7 bagger since it's IPO in 2002 reports Barron's this week. Perhaps Stevie Wonderboy has much bigger fish to fry in Macao and therefore is cooling on the NY deal?
/S/ Green Mtn Punter