De Francis offers settlement plan to Manfusos Proposal reportedly seeks to speed buyout decision


Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis has sent a settlement proposal to his estranged partners, Tom and Bob Manfuso, designed to resolve all disputes between the parties and pave the way for resolution of the Russian roulette agreement.

But the proposal does not say whether De Francis will buy out the Manfusos' interest in Laurel and Pimlico, according to a source familiar with the document.

Herb Garten, attorney for the Manfusos, acknowledged last night that he had received a detailed letter. "It did contain a proposal . . . and introduces other matters that have nothing to do with the Russian roulette or the contract which we have submitted to them. We are studying it [the letter] and are reviewing it carefully," Garten said.

De Francis declined to comment about the letter.

The latest proposal comes after stepped-up legal maneuverings the past couple of weeks between the camps.

In a legal document filed yesterday in Baltimore City Circuit Court, the Manfusos acknowledged that they have negotiated the restatement of the approximately $40 million in existing loans that the tracks have with First National Bank and have set Feb. 7, 1994, as a closing date -- if they buy out De Francis.

About two weeks ago, the Manfusos moved to freeze the assets of the estate of Frank De Francis in the Orphans' Court for Howard County in order to guarantee that the De Francis stock in Laurel and Pimlico would be covered by the estate's assets.

The court upheld the Manfusos' contingency claim, but delayed holding any hearings on the matter until after Jan. 12, 1994, the date when De Francis must decide if he will buy the Manfusos' stock in the racetracks for $8.2 million or sell the tracks to them at the same price.

Last week De Francis filed a motion in Baltimore City Circuit Court asking Judge Ellen Hollander to certify as a partial final judgment the ruling she made in August that validated the Russian roulette clause, which allows one partner to buy out the other.

If Hollander certifies the provision, which was just one claim in part of a larger suit filed by the Manfusos against De Francis in June, then De Francis can appeal her ruling and possibly delay his decision to buy out or sell to his estranged partners by the Jan. 12 deadline set in the Russian roulette agreement.

Yesterday, the Manfusos filed a response to De Francis' motion, saying that De Francis' attempt to appeal Hollander's ruling is "untimely" and nothing more than an attempt "to afford them [De Francis and his partner Martin Jacobs] an open-ended option to buy the tracks while they continue their thus far unsuccessful efforts to assemble financing and assess the corporations likely prospects [to build a track] in Virginia."

With less than two months before the Jan. 12 deadline, De Francis has not indicated whether or not he has the necessary funds to purchase the Manfusos' interests.

If Hollander doesn't certify the ruling, then De Francis said JTC yesterday, he can seek "non-traditional" ways to file an appeal.

"I'm not seeking delays," De Francis said. "What I'm trying to do is to get all of these issues completely resolved. There is still litigation hanging out there involving Manfuso suits against me and a suit by me against them [scheduled to be heard in March]. If I put up $8.2 million to buy out the Manfusos, I don't want to be sued by them. And conversely, if I'm paid $8.2 million by them, I want the money free and clear without the threat of suits attached to it."

No movement on Rosecroft

De Francis had a lengthy meeting with his senior staff members yesterday, but has not decided whether or not he will accept a horsemen's offer to contribute 2 percent of their share of the handle to help defray costs of the afternoon thoroughbred simulcast operation at Rosecroft Raceway.

He had wanted the horsemen to kick in 3 percent.

"What we are doing is trying to analyze ways to improve the economic situation [at that facility] and in other areas," De Francis said. "I'm looking for ways to make Rosecroft work, and not to stop it."

Miscellaneous: Older state-bred horses are racing on different fronts today. Valley Crossing, pro-tem leader in a bid to be named Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, faces Marquetry in the Hawthorne Gold Cup in Chicago. Marquetry was recently fourth in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park. Andrea Seefeldt rides Valley Crossing. . . . Maryland Million Classic winner, Forry Cow How, runs in the $200,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. . . . Closer to home, six older Maryland-breds, including Ameri Valay and Gala Spinaway, are scheduled to run in the $50,000 Walter Haight Handicap at Laurel.

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