02/07/2007 1:00AM

Johnsen leaving Magna to join track-buying group


Corey Johnsen, Magna Entertainment Corp.'s president of Southern operations since last August, has resigned his position to join a group of investors that are seeking to buy a controlling interest in an unidentified racetrack in the United States.

Johnsen, who emerged in horse racing in the early 1990's during the development of Lone Star Park in the Dallas area, said in an interview on Wednesday that he could not identify the track that the group was seeking to purchase because of a confidentiality agreement. Johnsen has purchased an equity interest in the group, and the group hopes to close the purchase in the second quarter of this year, Johnsen said.

Johnsen joined Magna when the company purchased Lone Star Park's operating assets in 2002, two years after Johnsen had been appointed president of the track. Along with a reputation for hands-on management of racing facilities, Johnsen is also considered a skilled lobbyist in the legislatures of several Southern states.

Texas tracks have been lobbying aggressively over the past several years for the ability to open offtrack betting parlors, operate account-wagering services, and install slot machines. None of the efforts has made any headway because of statewide opposition to expanded gambling, though Texas racing officials expect a strong push this year from the legislature to legalize slot machines at tracks.

"The only negative to this opportunity is timing," Johnsen said, "because I'm very confident that legislation will be passed that will enhance the revenue streams for Texas tracks, and I've been intimately involved in that process for the past three years."

* In separate news from Magna Entertainment, the company said on Wednesday that it has sold two parcels of land to its parent company, MI Developments, for approximately $30 million in cash. The parcels include a 34-acre property in Aurora, Canada, near Magna Entertainment's headquarters, and a 64-acre property at Laurel Park in Maryland.