Magna Official Neuman Steps Down in Dispute

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Four months after taking over as chief executive at Magna Entertainment, Michael Neuman yesterday left the Ontario, Canada-based horse racing company that owns Laurel Park and Pimlico.

Neuman's departure follows a recent conflict with Chairman Frank Stronach over refurbishing the barn area at Santa Anita Park.

The former president of the satellite television company EchoStar was hired in February, becoming the sixth CEO at Magna since the company was founded in 2000.

No reason was given for departure in a brief announcement by the company, but in May, Neuman, 51, told the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) that Magna had no plans to upgrade conditions at Santa Anita, which will host the Breeders' Cup championships in 2008. During its monthly meeting, the board had expected a progress report on refurbishment of the track's barns, which reportedly have poor wiring, plumbing and rat infestation, but Neuman said in a letter that Magna had no plans to make fixes.

On Tuesday, however, Stronach appeared before the board and promised $24 million for new artificial racing surfaces at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, as well as refurbished barns.

"I did not see the language in that letter until after it was sent," Stronach told the CHRB, according to a story in the Blood-Horse, an industry publication. "MEC has always been committed to rebuilding at Santa Anita. [Neuman] has been very much reprimanded."

Stronach did not return a telephone call requesting comment. Joe De Francis, chief executive of the Maryland Jockey Club and a Magna executive vice president, declined to comment.

-- John Scheinman

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