One of Hollywood Park's larger shareholders has called for the resignation of Marje Everett, the track's chairman and chief executive officer, and has suggested that "consideration be given to the termination of thoroughbred racing" at the Inglewood facility.
In a five-page letter sent to Everett, with copies forwarded to other shareholders and the media, Thomas W. Gamel, who owns 146,374 shares or roughly 4%, said Everett is "no longer effective" and should step aside.
Citing what he termed "the gradual demise of a once great company at the expense of its shareholders and the interests of horse racing," Gamel said the board of directors might do well to consider Don Robbins, the track's vice president and general manager, as a successor to Everett.
"Currently, Hollywood Park is 'Marje Everett' in spite of the fact that you (Everett) own only 14.65% (578,648 shares) of the company," Gamel wrote. "You are a minority shareholder and Hollywood Park is not yours to do with as you please.
"While your intentions may be good, your many past mistakes (the $41-million Pavilion at Inglewood, buying Los Alamitos, etc.) have multiplied to the point where it is time for a change.
"If you truly care about horse racing and the shareholders of Hollywood Park, you will put aside your personal interests and resign. It is now time to be sensible and deal with reality. Because your relationships with every facet of the industry are so damaged, you are no longer effective."
Reached Thursday evening, Everett declined to comment, saying she had not yet received the letter. It was mailed in Denver Tuesday and addressed to Everett at her Hollywood Park office.
"I'd be happy to respond whenever I receive the letter, but I have not seen it," Everett said. "I'm surprised that everyone else apparently will receive the letter before I do, but so be it."
Hollywood Park is $100 million in debt to the bank, with loans due in the summer. It hoped to rid itself of some of that debt by the sale of Los Alamitos race track property in Cypress, but voters in that city last month defeated a rezoning initiative and the sale fell through.
"I was terribly disappointed at the outcome of the election," Everett said. "Obviously, that does put added pressure on us. It would have lessened our load a great deal."
While delaying direct comment on Gamel's letter until she has seen it, Everett indicated she will resist any attempts to force her out. "I've been in it (racing) for 49 years," she said. "I've got a major investment in it. . . . I'm going to fight to protect all the shareholders."
Gamel, part of a partnership that attempted to buy Hollywood Park in 1986 only to see its $35-per-share offer rejected as "inadequate," said the financial problems are only likely to get worse.
"A mountain of expensive debt is coming due and may be in default," he stated in his letter. . . . "Unless something is done, in my opinion, Chapter XI (filing for protection under bankruptcy laws) is a definite prospect."
Gamel urged the track's board of directors to sell all or part of the Los Alamitos property without becoming involved in rezoning or lease-back arrangements.
"In conjunction with the sale of the Cypress property, the quarter horse and harness dates Hollywood controls should also be sold to those who are truly interested and have the expertise to run them," he wrote. "It is time to stop trying to save face on the Cypress/Los Alamitos property. It has turned out to be a bad deal; take the loss and get out."
Gamel also proposed leasing Hollywood Park's thoroughbred racing dates to Santa Anita and Del Mar, with the Cary Grant Pavilion at Hollywood Park being used as a simulcast facility offering wagering on all Southern California racing, including that at Santa Anita.
"The track at Hollywood Park could be used as a thoroughbred training facility as well as a place for conducting horse sales," he wrote. "The company could then develop most of the 340 acres at Hollywood, which have great value. There are many options available; perhaps a football stadium might be constructed."