05/23/2004 11:00PM

Daily Racing Form purchased by Wicks Group


NEW YORK - Daily Racing Form, the 110-year-old daily newspaper and "bible" of Thoroughbred racing, has been purchased by The Wicks Group of Companies, LLC, from an entity controlled by Alpine Equity Partners L.P. The transaction was completed Monday.

"This sale should only mean good things for the Form and our readers," said Steven Crist, who will remain DRF's Chairman and Publisher. "We think the change of financial backers will be transparent in the short term, allow us to grow and serve racing fans and the industry in the future, and remain an independent voice for news and information."

Founded in 1989, The Wicks Group is a Manhattan-based private equity firm that specializes in growing businesses in the media, communications and information sectors.

"Alpine typically purchases and improves companies and then moves on as they have done here after owning the company for over 5 years and adding significant value," said Charlie Hayward, who will continue to serve as DRF's president and chief executive. "They realized a strong return on their investment and now a new owner is in position to take the property to an even greater level, which is very exciting for all of us at the company."

The Wicks Group will be just the sixth owner of Daily Racing Form since it debuted as a four-page broadsheet in Chicago in 1894. The property was owned by the Annenberg family for most of the 20th Century before being sold to Rupert Murdoch in 1990 and then to K-III (later Primedia) in 1992.

Crist and Hayward put together an investment group headed by Alpine to buy the property from Primedia in August 1998. Since then, the newspaper has been reinvigorated by an infusion of leading racing journalists, and the company has diversified its revenue sources by launching the sport's leading website, www.drf.com; proprietary software including Formulator 4.0; and the DRF Press book-publishing division while forging new industry alliances and implementing new printing and database technologies.

"We were very impressed by what the management team has done," said Craig Klosk, co-managing partner of The Wicks Group, "and we believe there is now an opportunity to enhance and expand an already strong company and prominent consumer brand."

Daily Racing Form's corporate headquarters will remain at 100 Broadway in lower Manhattan. The company also has satellite offices in Bristol, Pa.; Las Vegas; Lexington, Ky.; Los Angeles; Miami; Seattle; and Toronto.