Buyout letter arrives De Francis stays calm HORSE RACING

From outward appearances yesterday, it was hard to guess who eventually will own Maryland's two thoroughbred mile racetracks.

By noon, Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis had received and opened a certified letter mailed to him on Saturday by his estranged partners, Tom and Bob Manfuso.


In the letter, the Manfusos stated the price at which they are willing to sell their shares in the tracks to De Francis. He now has 90 days to respond.

The letter contained, De Francis said, "exactly what their lawyer [Herb Garten] described in the [Sun] paper -- the offer and language concerning contractual obligations."


De Francis, appearing calm and relaxed, would not divulge the price or what he expects to do: whether he will buy the Manfusos out or decline and let them purchase his shares at the price they set, in keeping with their Russian Roulette agreement.

"My interest in all of this is to seek a final and complete resolution of our differences," De Francis said. "This may be a step in that direction, and I want to emphasize 'may be.'

"There are still a lot of issues to be resolved, such as outstanding lawsuits, whether or not I will pursue appealing Judge [Ellen] Hollander's decision concerning her ruling that the stockholders agreement is valid and how this all ties into what we're doing in Virginia [applying for a license to build a track near Richmond]."

Meanwhile, Bob Manfuso was at Laurel yesterday, conferring with racing secretary Tommy Baker and watching his horse, Twist the Facts, run in the seventh race.

De Francis gave no timetable as to when he will respond to the Manfusos' offer.

He said: "it's business as usual at Laurel. I'm flying to New York [today] to participate in the TRA [Thoroughbred Racing Associations] search committee selection for a national director.

"Marty [Jacobs, track counsel and part-owner] is attending the monthly meeting of the Virginia Racing Commission and Jim Mango [Laurel/Pimlico senior vice president of mutuels and development] is representing us at the monthly meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission in Timonium."