12/26/2006 12:00AM

Businessman divests Empire holdings

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Jared Abbruzzese, a businessman with close ties to embattled New York Senate leader Joseph Bruno, has agreed to divest his interests in Empire Racing, Empire announced Tuesday.

Bruno is the subject of a widening federal investigation into his business relationships, according to several published reports. Both Bruno and Abbruzzese are Thoroughbred racing enthusiasts. Empire is one of three groups bidding for the franchise to operate New York's three major racetracks beginning in 2008. Bruno contends he has done nothing wrong, but the possibility of a conflict of interest involving Bruno and Abbruzzese could have a negative effect on Empire's chance to take over New York's racing franchise. Empire finished a close second to Excelsior in a nonbinding bidding process for the franchise.

In a statement Tuesday, Empire reported that Abbruzzese had left the Empire Racing board in October and that he had now agreed to divest himself of any financial interests in the racing company.