Neck And Neck At Santa Anita

There hasn't been much action lately at the $2 window at Santa Anita, the fabled but money-losing California track. Rather, the hottest wagering is on the race to control the track itself.

First out of the gate was investor Thomas Barrack Jr., a former Bass brothers lieutenant on the board of Santa Anita Cos., which operates the track and a real estate investment trust. Santa Anita agreed on Aug. 19 to sell a 45% stake to Barrack's Colony Capital for $138 million, or $15 per share. The company hoped to use the capital to fund other leisure and entertainment businesses, and to counter stagnant racing revenues. Santa Anita lost $27.5 million in 1995.

Coming up on the outside, though, is Leon Black. Last month, a partnership backed by the former Drexel Burnham Lambert dealmaker made an unsolicited $200 million offer, or $19 per share, for 55% of the track, hoping to develop some of the 400 acres around Santa Anita. With proxies nearly in the mail, the two sides seem headed for a photo finish before yearend.

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