SBJ/August 31 - September 6, 1998/No Topic Name

Steinbrenner family eyes DeBartolo racetrack

Relatives and business partners of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner "might be" interested in buying Thistledown, a Cleveland-area racetrack owned by the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp., Steinbrenner told Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal.

Though members of his family and of Chicago's racing-involved Johnston family are not now "an ardent pursuer" of the track, Steinbrenner said, he conceded that the group might be interested in such a deal. The two families already own two racetracks together.

Steinbrenner emphasized that if a deal for Thistledown were struck, he would not be an owner "per se." Major League Baseball rules prohibit baseball team owners from owning racetracks because of concerns about gambling, said MLB spokesman Pat Courtney. League rules do permit track ownership by members of an owner's family.

The Johnstons and Steinbrenners "have had discussions among ourselves" about buying Thistledown, said Billy Johnston, who is involved in track ownership. "If it makes economic sense, we would be interested."

Steinbrenner's and Johnston's comments come as a deal to sell Thistledown as part of a three-racetrack package to Call Now Inc., a San Antonio-based company, fell through. Earlier discussions between the Steinbrenner-Johnston group and DeBartolo family about the sale of Thistledown were terminated when Call Now offered to buy the three tracks, Steinbrenner said.

Youngstown, Ohio-based DeBartolo Corp. and Call Now announced on Thursday that they had mutually agreed to terminate an agreement announced on June 30. Under that agreement, Call Now was to buy Thistledown, Louisiana Downs and Remington Park from the DeBartolo Corp. The DeBartolo family also owns the San Francisco 49ers.

Together the Steinbrenners and Johnstons own Balmoral Park, a Chicago-area harness track acquired from the DeBartolo family. The two families also own harness track Maywood Park in the Chicago area, and the Steinbrenner family has an equity stake in Red Mile, a harness racetrack in the Lexington, Ky., area.

Thistledown is a thoroughbred racetrack. Steinbrenner owns a number of thoroughbreds, including stakes winners Diligence, Concerto and Acceptable.

Steinbrenner visited Thistledown to watch Acceptable run there in early August. The horse was scratched from the race, but Steinbrenner spent the day at Thistledown and told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "I wouldn't mind owning this track."

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