Toronto Stock Exchange Delists Magna

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 04, 2009 - 07:07:00 PM

Golden Gate Fields moved closer to the auction block Monday when the Toronto Stock Exchange ordered shares of Magna Entertainment removed from its listings. 

And one of the players rumored to bid on the track is UC Berkeley. 

The delisting action, announced yesterday by the Toronto exchange’s Listing Committee, takes effect April 1. 

Word of the delisting sank the company’s stock, already trading at record lows, down to a quarter a share Tuesday, matching an all-time low set a week earlier on news the company had defaulted on loans at its Pimlico track. 

Just what this means for the track at Albany remains unclear. 

Two rumored buyers for all or parts of the property are a consortium organized by Hollywood Park president Jack Liebeau, who had previously headed Magna’s Santa Anita track, and another set of deep pockets closer to home: UC Berkeley. 

The Liebeau rumors were reported by blogger Bill Christine, the former Los Angeles Times reporter who covered racing for nearly a century. 

Three sources who asked not to be identified have told the Daily Planet that the university has met with Magna officials to discuss buying the track—or at least that section which Magna had previously tried to develop as an upscale mall and housing project. 

During hearings on the environmental reports on two planned buildings at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, critics repeatedly urged the university to build at alternative sites, with the Albany race track cited several times. 

Magna Entertainment is a spinoff of Magna International, Canadian Frank Stronach’s highly successful auto parts firm. Stronach is passionate about horse racing, owning horses as well as the largest block of U.S. race tracks ever assembled. 

The entertainment subsidiary is under a second Magna affiliate, MI Developments, Inc. (MID), which manages the company’s properties. 

But the tracks proved a financial black hole for the parts firm, and shareholders demanded that Stronach spin off his racing holdings into a separate company. 

The latest crisis for Magna Entertainment followed loan defaults and a demand by MID shareholders that directors refuse to lend any more money to the spinoff. 

MID, which has arranged financing for the tracks, announced last week that loans to at least four track-related affiliates were in default. 

The fate of the Albany track has been a political minefield in Albany, with the proposed shopping center project leading to the election of two city councilmembers who opposed the project—which was to be built by Los Angeles “lifestyle” mall developer and GOP political powerhouse Frank Caruso. 

Should UC Berkeley buy all or part of the property, development would be exempt from the Albany council’s jurisdiction since UC is a separate governmental agency autonomous of local zoning and regulations. 

Bankruptcy liquidation may be the only option left on Magna’s table. A failed restructuring plan, announced in November, included the announcement that all the company’s assets were up for grabs. 

In addition to Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita Park, the company owns Laurel Park and Pimlico in Maryland, Portland Meadows in Oregon, Lone Star Park in Texas, Remington Park in Oklahoma, The Meadows in Pennsylvania, Gulfstream Park in Florida and the Magna Racino in Stronach’s native Austria. 

The company also owns betting wire services.