Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Churchill Downs bids $45M for La. track

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Churchill Downs Inc. has offered to buy the financially troubled New Orleans Fair Grounds for $45 million.

The Louisville company reached an agreement with the Louisiana horsemen's association to purchase its legal claims against the track and then made the offer, the Times-Picayune newspaper reported Tuesday.

The paper said it had obtained documents related to the proposal. The Fair Grounds faces a Thursday deadline to submit a bankruptcy plan.

Under Churchill's proposal, $33 million would go to the Louisiana horsemen, with the remaining $12 million paid to the Fair Grounds' other creditors, according to a letter of intent signed by Churchill officials.

Churchill has given the Fair Grounds a deadline of 4 p.m. today to sign the letter.

If Fair Grounds officials accept, the track would not be allowed to negotiate with other prospective buyers for a specified period. But the Krantz family, which owns a controlling interest in the Fair Grounds, also can reject the offer and seek a deal with another buyer or find another way to satisfy the track's debts.

"We are looking at it and evaluating our options," said Fair Grounds bankruptcy attorney Douglas Draper. "There are things that we can live with, and there are things that are troublesome."

Churchill spokeswoman Julie Koenig declined comment.

A court ruled last month that the Fair Grounds owes the horsemen $89.9 million for withholding video-poker proceeds from purses for the past decade.

Under the agreement reached between Churchill and the Louisiana Horsemen's and Benevolent Protective Association, the horsemen would settle for about 35 percent of the judgment.

According to the documents outlining the offer, Churchill would buy the racetrack and its six off-track betting parlors.

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