Canadian family feud puts ownership of horse race tracks in doubt

Stronach Group owns Santa Anita in LA and Gulfstream near Miami

Gulfstream Park, Belinda Stronach and Frank Stronach (Credit: Getty Images, 401(K) 2012 via Flickr)
Gulfstream Park, Belinda Stronach and Frank Stronach (Credit: Getty Images, 401(K) 2012 via Flickr)

A Canadian billionaire’s dispute with his daughter over his fortune involves valuable horse-racing tracks in Los Angeles and South Florida.

Frank Stronach, who built the Magna International car parts empire, is suing his daughter, Belinda Stronach, and other family members, for about $400 million, claiming they mismanaged the family’s assets and worked to limit his control over the fortune he created.

Stronach, who now lives in his native Austria, filed a 73-page suit in a Toronto court earlier this month, alleging “a complete breakdown” within the Stronach family, the Globe and Mail reported.

The Stronach Group, a Magna-related company, owns a sprawling collection of real estate, including top race tracks such as Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.; Gulfstream Racing Park and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Florida; and Pimlico in Baltimore. His daughter Belinda, the company’s president, had been taking a leading role in running the race tracks in recent years.

Under her leadership, Stronach Group had been exploring ways to better monetize the 250-acre Santa Anita park. The racing course is worth at least $500 million, the Pasadena Star-News reported. But the company is facing challenges from declining U.S. racing attendance and off-site and online wagering.

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A Magna subsidiary purchased Gulfstream in 1999 for $95 million. The area near the track and casino complex has attracted new development, including Alan Waserstein’s Nine Hundred, a 23-story mixed-used tower.

In 2006, Gulfstream and Santa Anita cohosted the Sunshine Millions, a competition day with $3.6 million in stakes races between horses bred in California and Florida.

After selling his Magna shares in 2010, Stronach stepped down as chairman a year later. Lately, he has been working to put together farmland in north-central Florida and now owns about 90,000 acres devoted to raising grass-fed cattle, the Globe and Mail reported.

He is thought to be the seller of more than 1,200 acres in the Ocala area that came on the market last month after a country club on the property closed.

Back in Europe, Stronach served in the Austrian parliament as the leader of Team Stronach for Austria, a pro-business, Euro-skeptic populist party that enjoyed moderate success in the 2013 election. He famously stripped off his shirt during a media interview. “I don’t have to be ashamed of my body,” he said, then 80 years old.