09/05/2012 10:07AM

Stronach to form new political party in Austria


Frank Stronach, the billionaire Thoroughbred owner and breeder who owns some of the most prominent racetracks in the United States, has announced that he will form a political party in his native Austria seeking the country’s withdrawal from the euro zone.

Stronach, who will turn 80 on Sept. 6, has been appearing in public in Austria over the last several weeks to build support for the party, which still does not have a name, according to reports. Polling by Gallup suggests that the platform endorsed by Stronach – which would include the return of Austria to the schilling currency – would garner approximately 8 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press.

Stronach, who first indicated that he would like to launch an Austrian political party in 2011, has also said that he will seek a seat in the Austrian parliament. In 1988, Stronach ran unsuccessfully for a Parliament seat in Canada, where he made his home after emigrating from Austria in 1954. His daughter, Belinda Stronach, is a former Liberal Party member of Canada’s parliament.

It is unclear how Stronach’s latest quixotic effort will impact the operations of his racetracks, which include Santa Anita Park in Southern California, the host of the next two Breeders’ Cup events, and Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. Stronach took ownership of the tracks in mid-2011 in a deal to privatize the racing and gambling assets of MI Developments Corp., a publicly traded real-estate company he controlled that was being dragged down by poor results from its racetrack operations and a heavy debt load.

The new company formed by Stronach, the Stronach Group, owns Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, Laurel Park and Pimlico Racecourse in Maryland, and Portland Meadows in Oregon. The company also owns and operates a casino at Gulfstream, the account-wagering company XpressBet, the bet-processing company AmTote, and a 50-percent stake in the horserace broadcast network HRTV. The company also owns a racetrack in Austria.

Stronach has generally focused on bigger-picture issues for the U.S. racing assets he controls, though he has sometimes intervened in the tracks’ operations and has often inserted himself into negotiations between the tracks and their horsemen. He has also frequently lobbied racing commissions to relax restrictions on how racetracks can operate.

Stronach also owns Adena Springs, a racing and breeding operation in North America. The operation was voted the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Owner in 1998-2000 and Outstanding Breeder in 2004-2006.