02/20/2002 1:00AM

Simms sells Turf Paradise to brother


Jerry Simms, the majority owner of Turf Paradise, has reached an agreement to sell his stake in the track to his brother, satisfying an order of the Arizona Department of Racing, Turf Paradise officials said Tuesday afternoon.

Simms was told to sell his interest in the Phoenix track after regulators uncovered his connections to a California bribery scandal in the mid-1980's. His racing license was revoked last year, shortly after closing a $54 million deal to buy the track.

"This is a heartbreaking decision because I love the sport and pageantry of horse racing and had devoted my efforts to improving the quality of Turf Paradise," Simms said in a statement released by the track.

Simms' brother, Ronald, a California real estate developer, already owns a 32 percent stake in the track. He filed a license application with the Department of Racing on Tuesday, Turf Paradise officials said.

For all the controversy surrounding Simms's background, horseplayers in Phoenix had praised him for a $4 million renovation of the top floor of the grandstand. Ontrack attendance and handle have improved markedly since Simms bought the track.