11/19/2003 1:00AM

Firm advises sale of N.J. tracks


An investment firm hired to evaluate the worth of Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands has recommended that New Jersey put the two tracks up for sale or lease them to a private company, according to officials of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the owner of the tracks.

Any decision to actually put the tracks up for sale or lease would have to be approved by the authority's board, according to Jim DeBosh, a spokesman for the authority. Although the board is scheduled to meet on Nov. 26, the recommendation will not be discussed at that meeting, DeBosh said, but will likely be put on an agenda for a meeting down the road.

"It's something that the board will definitely be looking at," DeBosh said.

The investment firm, Lehman Brothers, has been evaluating the tracks for more than two months. New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey has said that he supports the sale of the tracks if the deal makes sense to the state.

Monmouth and The Meadowlands generated $23.5 million in profits last year. The racing industry in the state, however, has struggled against competitors in neighboring states, and horsemen and tracks have continually battled against each other in ongoing fights over racing dates, telephone betting, and offtrack wagering.

DeBosh said the offer sheet for a long-term lease of the tracks would include several stipulations that protected live racing dates and current employees of the tracks. "We'll test the market, and if it makes sense, we'll go forward," DeBosh said.