Hubbard Looks to Track’s Future : Hollywood Park: He is working 15-hour days in his new role as president to get things ready for the April 24 opener.


Shortly after moving into the executive suite at Hollywood Park two weeks ago, track president R.D. Hubbard called a staff meeting.

No one asked for a raise, not after the recent $9-million proxy battle that resulted in Hubbard taking control of the track, but there was a question about the employees’ dress code.

“It won’t be as strict,” Hubbard said. “You’ll see me around here in boots and jeans a lot of the time.”


Marje Everett, who had run Hollywood Park since 1972, resigned Feb. 3, ending a mud-slinging fight and saving the track’s shareholders perhaps an additional $1.5 million in proxy costs.

Since then, Hubbard has been at Hollywood Park most of the time, working 15-hour days to get the place ready for the season opener April 24.

“A year from now, they won’t be able to recognize the place,” said Tom Gamel, a prominent Hollywood Park shareholder who sought the ouster of Everett. “It will look like a completely different race track.”

Hubbard, 55, also owns a 60% interest in Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico and the Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., in addition to his controlling interest in Hollywood Park. Perhaps only one other racing investor, Edward J. De Bartolo, the Youngstown, Ohio, sportsman who runs tracks in Cleveland, Bossier City, La., and Oklahoma City, Okla., has such multiple interests.

Hubbard had no grand plan for all of this. In 1986, after parimutuel gambling was legalized in Kansas, Dick Boushka approached Hubbard about building a greyhound track. More than a decade before, both had been successful businessmen in Wichita, Kan.--Boushka with a refining company and Hubbard for a firm that manufactured automobile glass.

Hubbard had never seen a greyhound race, and as a member of the horse-racing establishment he might have been expected to pass up a dog operation. But Hubbard envisioned a combined horse-dog complex, and now Kansas has a $70-million facility, the two tracks sharing a joint parking lot.

“If we didn’t do what we did, the greyhounds and the horses would have wound up competing against one another in the same market,” Hubbard said. “It was a better idea getting the two industries to work together.”

New Mexico was next. Ruidoso Downs, a major quarter horse track where Hubbard raced many of his eight champions, had fallen on hard times and was in disrepair. In 1988, Hubbard and a partner, Ed Allred of Long Beach, bought Ruidoso by putting up $2.6 million in cash and assuming $9 million in debts. Since then, they have spent nearly $3 million on improvements.

In 1986, Hubbard, Gamel and another partner made a tender offer for debt-ridden Hollywood Park and its other track, Los Alamitos, but the Everett-led board turned down the suggestion. Hubbard went away quietly, but then last year, when a large block of Hollywood Park stock became available, he began buying--while contemplating a run at the Everett’s control.

To win, Hubbard had to marshal support that a group of dissident stockholders lacked when they failed to topple Everett in 1977. Gamel’s position was clear--long before Hubbard’s arrival, he had criticized Everett publicly and asked for her resignation.

Still, Hubbard and Gamel owned less than 16% of the company. An important player in the struggle was sports businessman Harry Ornest, who had never raced a horse and had seldom bet on one. But he and his family were Hollywood Park’s largest shareholders.

Ornest didn’t commit himself until Hubbard, in sort of an audition for a board seat, made a presentation to the Everett-dominated board during a meeting at Everett’s Holmby Hills home last year. Hubbard was rejected by the Everett loyalists, but Ornest, impressed with the presentation, cast his proxies--close to 10% of the track’s stock--with Hubbard.

“I’m thrilled that Hubbard is running the track,” Ornest said. “He’s the best thing to happen to the company’s shareholders in years. He gives the track the combination of racing and business leadership that Hollywood Park has lacked for a long time. Hubbard will instill a loyalty among the employees that hasn’t been there lately. It should be fun to work at Hollywood Park.”

Randall Dee Hubbard--friends call him by his middle name--was born in Smith Center, Kan., population about 2,000. Hubbard’s parents had seven children before him. Miner Hubbard, his father, ran the town ice house and gave his youngest son his first job, carrying 25- and 50-pound blocks of ice.

Hubbard, a good high school basketball player, attended a community college near Wichita for three years, then briefly coached basketball for $3,200 a year.

In 1959, Hubbard was in Wichita, selling automobile windshields for $90 a week but getting to know the glass business well. In the late 1960s, he became president of an auto glass company that increased annual sales from $7.5 million to $104 million in a decade. By 1978, Hubbard and a group of investors were able to buy and merge two struggling glassmaking companies that have become AFG Industries. AFG, based in Ft. Worth, ranks second among flat-glass manufacturers in North America. Hubbard is chairman and chief executive officer.

Along the way, Hubbard has been married three times, fathered three children and has three grandchildren. He and his current wife, Joan Dale, a former Wichita schoolteacher, have been married for 19 years.

In 1989, the Hubbards bought a collection of 19th-Century Western art for $15 million and displayed it at a museum at Ruidoso Downs. The Hubbards pay a $250,000 annual prize to an artist who wins a competition that they sponsor.

The award might be given at a black-tie dinner, but Hubbard is still more comfortable in boots than a tuxedo, and he expresses his artistic preferences simply. “I guess you would say I’m a realist,” he said. “I like something to look like the real thing that it’s based on.”

When Hubbard applied for a racing operator’s license in New Mexico, he estimated his personal net worth at more than $107 million. In a recent interview he said that he might be worth $100 million, but associates say that the true figure could be double that. The Hubbards have three homes, in Ft. Worth, in Ruidoso, N.M., and in Palm Desert, not far from the fourth hole at the La Quinta Country Club. Hubbard is a 50% owner of Crystal Springs Farm, a 235-acre horse-breeding operation near Paris, Ky.

Hubbard estimates that since 1980 his horses--thoroughbreds and quarter horses--have earned $10 million. With Make Mine Cash, he won the All-American Derby, a $1.6-million quarter horse race, and with Corwyn Bay, a thoroughbred, he won the Cartier Million in Ireland in 1988. Hubbard also owned interests in the horses that finished second and third in the Cartier.

Even when the market for bloodstock was unrealistically high in the early 1980s, Hubbard seldom went for the big-ticket horses at the auctions. In 1986, the day before the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, Hubbard and his late partner, Ed Sczesny, paid $1 million for Shywing, a filly already entered for the $1-million Distaff. She finished ahead of only one horse for her new owners. One of Hubbard’s more profitable buys was Sixy Chick, a quarter horse. He bought her for $17,000, watched her earn more than $700,000 and sold her for about $1 million.

“Dee makes a lot of his own luck,” says Brad McKinzie, who edits a quarter horse magazine that Hubbard has financed. “And when he makes up his mind to do something, he doesn’t sit around thinking about it, he just does it.”

This quick-draw approach led to some mistakes in the proxy fight at Hollywood Park. Hubbard prematurely announced victory at the end of the year, and when the vote turned out less than 1% short, a federal judge rebuked him and ordered him to apologize in a newspaper ad. During a court deposition last December, Hubbard’s vague answers to questions about possibly doing business with a tainted concessionaire 20 years ago gave the flagging Everett campaign a new burst of momentum.

Does he support his horses at the betting window?

“I hang around Ed Allred, and he likes to bet, so people think I bet a lot, too,” Hubbard said. “I think I work too much instead of betting too much. Once in a while, I’ll bet $1,000 to win and place on one of my horses.”

At Monday’s annual shareholders’ meeting at Hollywood Park, Hubbard met about 250 of the track’s investors, who were told that the track is $45 million in debt. “Let’s not worry about the past,” Hubbard said. “I’m concerned about the future. There’s nothing we can do about the past, so let’s forget about the old arguments (with Marje Everett). We’re here to concentrate on the new Hollywood Park.”