Developer Mark Vogel owes about $17 million in debts on his two Maryland harness racing tracks, including hefty overdue payments to the state, his employee pension fund and two influential law firms, federal bankruptcy records show.
A court filing submitted by the Bowie-based developer late Thursday paints a bleak financial picture of the debt-saddled Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill and Delmarva Downs in Ocean City, which Vogel placed under court protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws to avert a threatened foreclosure.
The court filing effectively removed Vogel, 42, one of the region's most ambitious and flamboyant developers, as principal operator of the tracks. It came at the end of a tumultuous week in which state officials, led by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, took aggressive action to wrest control of the tracks from Vogel after his public admission of 14 years of "off-and-on" use of cocaine.
The state officials, who decided they could not renew Vogel's track operating license in light of his public admissions and precarious finances, worked with officials of First National Bank of Maryland to force Vogel to seek court protection two days before last night's opening of Maryland's harness racing season. First National had begun foreclosure on a delinquent $11 million loan.
The State Racing Commission moved quickly yesterday to approve an operating license for the court-appointed trustee, Jim Murphy, who will oversee a reorganization of the two Vogel corporations that operate the tracks. Murphy had served as the tracks' general manager and president.
In the court filing, Vogel places the approximate value of the tracks at $32.5 million. His attorney, Ira Wolpert, said the number represents an optimistic estimate of the tracks' current and future value.
Wolpert said Vogel is talking with several parties who have shown interest in buying the tracks for what Wolpert termed a "working discussion number" of between $20 million and $25 million. "The problem is if you ask too much, you frighten away possible buyers and if you ask too low, you undervalue your own asset," he said.
Vogel, who had placed the tracks on the market last fall and abruptly decided this month not to sell them, had hoped to realize between $10 and $15 million from the sale of the tracks -- enough money, he said, to rescue some of his threatened real estate projects.
Vogel, who has extensive real estate holdings in Maryland and Virginia, has been hit with a series of foreclosure actions on major real estate projects since his Sept. 13 arrest on a single cocaine possession charge. Vogel pleaded guilty in November under an arrangement in which his criminal record will be expunged in one year if he commits no other offenses.
Wolpert conceded that if Vogel realizes his asking price for the tracks, he will be left with far less money than he originally expected.
He said Vogel will try to maintain at least a partial financial interest in the tracks, despite strong indications that the Racing Commission wants Vogel removed from the track operation completely.
Vogel declined to comment yesterday.
The Chapter 11 filing shows that Vogel owes about $641,000 to the State Racing Commission for employee salaries, and $318,000 to the Maryland Harness Track Pension Fund. He owes more than $28,000 to the law firm of former Prince George's County Democratic political leader Peter F. O'Malley and more than $18,000 to Annapolis lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano, both of whom have represented him at different times in state government matters. The filing also shows Vogel behind on his power and water bills and heavily indebted to firms that handle track catering, public relations and other services.
Wolpert said Vogel also owes paychecks to about 200 track employees, whose names will be added to the list of creditors.