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Friday, May 11, 2007

What Are They Thinking?

- Picture this. Rudy Giuliani wins the GOP presidential nomination, and is set to take on Democratic nominee Bill Richardson, the independent Michael Bloomberg, and the Barbaro Party candidate Dee Mirich (I forgot her name, so I typed 'barbaro crazy nuts' into Google). The former mayor of New York makes an announcement that he has formed a transition team to take over management of the war, and it's led by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. 'What the hell is he thinking of,' you might ask!

That may be an extreme analogy, but take a look at this:

Empire Racing Associates has released the names of an eight-member team of racing-operations professionals mostly from Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp. that will lead its racing transition team should Empire Racing be awarded the New York Thoroughbred racing franchise. [Empire press release, via Bloodhorse]
And I ask...'What the hell are they thinking of?' For one thing, Churchill is on everybody's shit list these days for using the Derby in an attempted blackmail of Youbet into dropping the TVG tracks.

And Magna?? They just released their latest earnings report that once again highlights their total incompetence. According to the Associated Press, the company is in such bad financial shape that its auditors have questioned whether it can stay in operation. They are a half billion dollars in debt to the real estate company that controls their voting rights, and are now looking to sell off "non-strategic" assets like Great Lakes Downs and several training centers. Ask the horsemen at the threatened San Luis Rey Downs training center how "non-strategic" they think it is. And, of course, Magna has transformed Gulfstream from a racing paradise into a total disaster (see the latest feedback I've gotten from aggrieved customers here). Even the racino there is failing badly. The company is little more than a laughingstock, and now, amidst all of this, Frank Stronach wants to buy Chrysler, another total train wreck of a company!

You just gotta wonder why, especially considering these recent developments, Empire would go out of their way to emphasize their relationship with these companies! It's not like they had to make an announcement about a transition team. What transition? It's becoming obvious that there is going to be no imminent announcement regarding a new franchise holder. All the reports indicate that the decision will be delayed; Matt Hegarty reported in the Form that Spitzer told legislative leaders that determining how to award the racing franchise....should be a priority during the last six weeks of the legislative session. That sounds to me like he's planning to go virtually back to square one, as Steven Crist reported in the Form today. By the time a selection is finally made, Gulfstream could be giving way for condominiums, and Frank Stronach may be driving a new Chrysler prototype off the assembly line. And into more red ink.


Anonymous said...

So tell us what do you think of the current NYRA team of management????

Anonymous said...

Amusing that not one member of the "transition team" has installed synthetic surfaces at their own ovals. Yet they are going to begin the planning process for New York.

More empty rhetoric from Empire.

Anonymous said...

Dee Mirich...classic.

Alan Mann said...

>>So tell us what do you think of the current NYRA team of management????

Judging from the four question marks, I'm guessing that you're not going to like my answer, but here goes. I think the current management has done the best they can under almost impossible circumstances. They came in while the association was under indictment, stuck with a business model that guarantees that they'll lose money over the course of the year. with no friends in Albany, and with Pataki stonewalling the racino (and man, that's one lawsuit I would hate to see go away).

I think they've played their hand extremely well; despite descending into bankrtupcy, they've always seemed to hold the upper hand. They're going toe-to-toe now with a strong willed, empowered governor, and the fact that he came out in the paper and said that he told Andrew Cuomo to win the case tells me that things aren't going his way. So I admire the job they've done in that regard.

That's from the viewpoint of a fan and observer (and one that has not endorsed NYRA or anyone else at this point). I don't know if you're the same commenter that posted about the backstretch conditions, but I'm guessing from the multiple punctuation marks that you are. :) I don't live or work on the backstretch, and I'm not a NYRA employee. I'm extremely sympathetic to their plights. But based on what I've seen and read about the NYRA management, I think they would do something about it if they could. If Pataki hadn't delayed, and ultimately killed the racino, then maybe they'd be doing it right now. That's just my guess based on what I know. If you think I'm wrong or being naive, then please come back and tell me why.

Anonymous said...

I don't "like" nor dislike your answer, I was just curious about your opinion.I find your blog very informative,and although i do not write very often i do read it often.I do not share your admiration although.Governors past and present are not the entire blame for this mess either,partly maybe. Oh I didn't think your past comment was "snarky" either. Take care will be watching along with you.

Anonymous said...

a wonderful surprise to see Minutemen at your site. I love that DVD and I actually saw them in concert. I'm gonna give Pletcher another try at the Preak. Maybe when it's least expected. Go Wings, bye

Alan Mann said...

The Wings might have stolen one there; great finish. Unfortunately, I never got to see the Minuteman. Ran across that video and couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

Riddle me this Batman - If Pataki was simply delaying the vlt project at Aqueduct without cause, how come five months into the Spitzer administration there is no approval? It seems to me that the issues must be more complex than simply granting permission for the facility to open.

I think you're giving NYRA's management too much credit. Their game plan seems to be "prevent the laws from being used" in an effort to retain the franchise. The longer they wait, the greater the liklihood that other suitors will leave the picture. If they can delay a decision past December 31st, they know that the Legislature will give an extension rather than let racing stop. That's not rocket science.

Who came into the association while they were under indictment? I think most of the Trustees are the same. Hayward used to be a Trustee, and simply returned when Tim Smith declined to take over. Nader was there from before. The lawyers and lobbyists are the same.

The hand they were dealt? This is the hand they dealt themselves. Their inability to accept change and their steadfast refusal to adapt have lead to these present problems. Given their historic ability to protect the franchise in Albany, why didn't they seek change before. Why wait fifty years before figuring out the system is broken? OTB was enacted in the very early 1970's, Atlantic City gambling was established in the late 1970's, Indian casinos were developed in the early 1990's - it has taken them 15 to 30 years to react? Come on.

If NYRA was truly interested in the betterment of the racing and the people involved, they would have allowed the franchise process to play out and, if they were the best, they'd win. All they are about is preserving their leadership - a questionable term given the way they have run the operation into the ground over the last twenty years.

Speaking of a lack of leadership, I have no confidence that the Governor or the Legislature will find the best solution. Unfortunately, I have no solution. I just see the Titanic headed for the iceburg.

Ahhh, having vented ... I feel much better now.

Alan Mann said...

>>Ahhh, having vented ... I feel much better now.

Yeah, I'll bet! I don't know why a deal hasn't been done by now, and I'm surprised that it hasn't. Yes, the issues may be complex, but perhaps because one or both sides are making them more so than they need to be. But I think Spitzer is trying to get something done, whereas Pataki was being vindictive and trying to retain some control over the process.

One thing I neglected to mention in my previous comment is that I think that NYRA has done a very poor job of articulating a vision for the future of the franchise during this process, so I'm in complete agreemeent with that part of your post. I don't know if I agree about them not seeking change before; the legislature has always resisted change, and New York has always been behind the curve when it comes to things like simulcasting and internet wagering despite earlier efforts. Why, it's only recently in the scheme of things that NYRA has been allowed to accept more than two simulcast signals, and since the OTB's have been allowed to accept thoroughbred wagers after 7:30 PM. And as far as NYRA trying to preserve their leadership, that's just human nature. People always fight for their territory, even if everyone in the world wants them to go, like with Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

And finally, I couldn't agree more that neither the Governor nor Legislature will find a solution that's beneficial to anyone but themselves. Thanks for stopping by to vent.

Anonymous said...

"But I think Spitzer is trying to get something done, whereas Pataki was being vindictive and trying to retain some control over the process."

Huh? What exactly is Spitzer trying to do?