05/19/2008 12:00AM

Big Brown deal a first for Clay


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Three Chimneys Farm's private stud deal for Big Brown came together just hours before the colt won the Preakness on Saturday after two weeks of intense work and negotiations by new farm president Case Clay.

Under the agreement signed Saturday morning, International Equine Acquisitions Holdings sold an undisclosed minority interest in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner for a private amount that bloodstock insiders estimate puts the colt's total value at $50 million.

Clay said Three Chimneys teamed with 10 to 12 partners to purchase the interest, which will bring Big Brown to stud at the Midway, Ky., farm when his racing days are over.

It was the first major stallion deal for Clay, the 34-year-old son of Three Chimneys owners Robert and Blythe Clay. The younger Clay took over as Three Chimneys president last November after longtime president Dan Rosenberg announced his departure.

Case Clay said the farm made its initial pitch to IEAH after hearing on May 8 that a stud deal already might be near.

"My dad was in Pittsburgh, and he went over the next day to meet with IEAH about the possibility of Three Chimneys standing Big Brown," Clay said.

After Robert Clay laid out the initial offer, he and his wife departed for Machu Picchu, Peru, on May 11, but they were in frequent contact as their son, Three Chimneys chief financial officer Mark Ackerman, and the farm's attorneys at Stites & Harbison worked out the deal.

"Let's just say the cell phone reception in Machu Picchu is surprisingly good," Case Clay said. "It took about a week, and it was a very stressful week. But [IEAH co-president] Michael Iavarone was great to deal with, and it was a team effort over here."

Robert Clay said: "When I talked to Michael Iavarone before we left, we had everything agreed to in principle, and Case was going to wrap it up. We had a few bumps along the way, and Case engineered it, really. He did a great job."

The deal appeared to fall through on May 15 when Iavarone issued a statement saying the parties had been unable to come to terms.

"Without going into everything, it was a couple of legal issues and last-minute bumps in the road," Clay said. "Nothing really changed that much, we just needed more time. We eventually got there, we just couldn't get there on Thursday."

After several late nights at the Stites & Harbison offices in Lexington poring over contract details, the team finally signed the paperwork Saturday morning at the law office after Robert Clay had returned from vacation.

"Saturday morning at 9 a.m., we were eating Egg McMuffins and putting together the final documents," the younger Clay said. "It really was at the last minute. I went back home and got dressed and was shaving when the last signature came through."

By the way, the Clays made it to Pimlico in time to watch their newest stallion prospect win the Preakness.