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Family feud escalates within Stronach Group, owner of Pimlico, Laurel racetracks

A feud within the Canadian family that owns Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park intensified this week as the daughter of the company’s patriarch fired back at her father after he sued her for hundreds of millions of dollars, according to news reports.

In October, Stronach Group founder Frank Stronach brought a lawsuit against his daughter and successor Belinda Stronach, alleging she mismanaged the company and family fortunes. But in a court filing Monday, Belinda Stronach rejected her father’s claims and said she was trying to prevent him from investing in “idiosyncratic and often unprofitable projects” ranging from 12-story bronze statues to golf courses, Bloomberg News reported.

In separate defense statements filed Monday in Ontario, Belinda Stronach and her co-defendant, Stronach Group CEO Alon Ossip, alleged Frank Stronach blew $850 million on failed “passion projects” over the years, including spending hundreds of millions on agriculture, thoroughbred horse operations, golf courses and two 12-story bronze statues of a Pegasus horse defeating a dragon, according to Bloomberg.

Frank Stronach sued his daughter and Ossip in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The suit alleged that Belinda Stronach was diverting funds meant for projects like his grass-fed cattle farm to support her extravagant lifestyle, according to Bloomberg. His initial complaint sought $520 million Canadian — about $390 million in U.S. dollars — and asked to have his daughter, who serves as the Stronach Group’s chairman and president, removed from the company.

The suit revealed lavish spending within the Stronach Group, the largest owner and operator of horse racing tracks in North America. Frank Stronach alleged that Belinda Stronach misappropriated more than $70 million Canadian — $52 million in the U.S. — for personal expenses, including parties, vacations, limousine rides and expansive meals that were not related to business activities.

The case sent chills through Maryland’s horse industry this fall, and it continues to be of high interest as the future of the Preakness at aging Pimlico hangs in limbo.

A study released in December suggested razing the aging North Baltimore facility and rebuilding it would provide the most effective solution for updating the track and securing it as the long-term home for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

The idea, however, carries a price tag of $424 million, which Stronach has made clear it won't pay and could be a big ask for the state and a cash-strapped city.

In addition to Pimlico and Laurel Park, the Stronach Group also owns racetracks in California, Florida and Oregon.

smeehan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sarahvmeehan

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