By Ray Paulick

Halsey Minor thought he would be meeting with MI Developments (MID) chief executive officer Dennis Mills in Baltimore, Md., on Wednesday morning to discuss Minor's proposed buyout of the company's $100-million loan to Magna Entertainment (MECA), the financially beleaguered racetrack company that operates Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields in California, Gulfstream Park in Florida, and Pimlico and Laurel Park in Maryland, among other facilities.

When Mills failed to show, Minor called him, only to discover that Mills was still at Magna's corporate headquarters in Canada putting out a press release outlining new loans from MI Developments to Magna Entertainment, further extensions of existing loans, and a proposed reorganization that could put the racetrack company more firmly under the control of Frank Stronach. The proposed reorganization, subject to MI Developments shareholder approval, is “an egregious attempt to hijack shareholder value and will never pass,” Minor told the Paulick Report.

Minor, a technology entrepreneur who created CNET.com among other Internet companies, is a horse owner and breeder who has also expressed interest in buying and restoring the dormant Hialeah Park in South Florida.

“He stood me up to put out this press release?” Minor said of Mills. “It might have been good to have met with me before the press release, because we have a better offer, by far, that will be far more acceptable to MID shareholders.  It was a good faith attempt on my part to sit down with him and see if there was something we could do. Instead they put out this preposterous press release and he stands me up the day before Thanksgiving after I traveled all the way here to meet with him.

“I could have told Mills that what he put out, even though the stock is up a few pennies, has no chance of passing. There is a contingency (among MID shareholders) that is of the mind that says, 'We'll do anything to get rid of Frank,' but this proposal doesn't really fully get rid of him.”

At least two institutional shareholders in MID, Farallon Capital Management and Greenlight Capital, have suggested possible legal action for breach of fiduciary responsibilty by MID's board of directors over the MECA loans, one of them calling MECA a “financial sinkhole.” A previous proposal to hand MECA over to Frank Stronach was voted down by MID shareholders earlier this year.

The proposal calls for a new loan from MID to MECA of $50 million to fund current operations and $75 million to pay for a possible slots license and temporary facility in Maryland, along with extensions of an existing bridge loan and of repayment deadline for another $100-million loan.


A second stage of the proposal, subject to shareholder approval, calls for MID to purchase unsold real estate in Dixon, Calif., and near the Palm Meadows training facility in Florida at what it calls “fair market value.” It also seeks additional extensions on the loans and the option to repay the loans in MECA stock instead of cash. The third and final stage, taking control of MECA away from MID and into the hands of an entity called the “Stronach Group,” is contingent upon MECA retiring its convertible bonds.

Minor insists that even if the proposal somehow gets shareholder approval, MECA will fail. “Frank doesn't buy the stock until after the $295 million in convertible bonds are paid off,” he said. “If they are not paid, the company goes bankrupt. The slots deal in Maryland is terrible, and most of the big guys have said they are not even going to try to get the license. It's only 33% (of revenue), versus close to 50% in Pennsylvania and Delaware. He has to spend $250 million to build his slots parlor, then give 60% of his profits to (Joe) DeFrancis (who sold his family's interests in the Maryland tracks to Magna with a contingency for a share of any future slots revenue). So his own deal, which sucks all this money away from MID shareholders, would itself have a life of a year or two before it went under. This is Stronach's way of saying, 'I have this company (MID) hostage. If you want me to go away, you have to pay up.'

“The shareholders fully intend to have their day with Frank.”

Magna Entertainment (MECA) closed at $2.01 on Wednesday, up $.60, a gain of 42.8% on the day. MI Developments (MIM) gained $1.62 to close at $10.05, up 19.2%.

Copyright © 2008, The Paulick Report

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