Trying to read the “D” leaves on Churchill Downs Inc. stock buyback

track_Arlington_Park
Churchill Downs Inc.’s Arlington International Racecourse, aka Arlington Park, in Arlington Heights, Ill. Source: NTRA

As someone who spent the better part of a decade reporting on Churchill Downs Inc., the most interesting aspect of Thursday’s announcement that the Louisville-based company is buying back stock from its largest shareholders isn’t that piece of the story.

What interested me most was the fact that the release quoted Craig Duchossois, not his father, Richard Duchossois, who recently turned 94.

While the father and son have been on Churchill’s board since Churchill merged in 2000 with the Duchossois’ Arlington Park (though some joke that Arlington bought Churchill), the face of Arlington was and still is the elder “Mr. D.” He rebuilt the track after a fire destroyed the grandstand. He’s been a high-profile figure in negotiations with horsemen and the push to get racetrack slots in Illinois.

As best I can tell, this is the first Churchill release in the 15 years of the merged entity where Craig Duchossois is quoted.

The release noted that the move the repurchase of 944,756 shares from the family owned The Duchossois Group, Inc. for $138.1 million dealt – at least partially – with estate planning.

“The Duchossois family is strongly committed to Churchill Downs and we are excited to remain its largest shareholder with over 2 million shares after this transaction is completed,” the son, the CEO of The Duchossois Group said in the statement. “This transaction is simply a result of our family’s ongoing estate planning and desire for increased diversification, particularly in light of the value to which our shareholdings in Churchill Downs has grown over time.”

The significance of the deal, likely, is just what the release says it is. But the quoting of the son will cause some in the industry to wonder, even if only briefly. The story I always wanted to do, but believe no one would have talked for it, was what happens after Mr. D? He can’t live forever and his offspring do not appear as captivated by racing as he has been. But as evidenced by his concerns a few days ago over an anti-slaughter proposal that was to be before the Illinois Racing Board, he’s still the man.

“The Duchossois family has been a long-time, passionate shareholder in Churchill Downs and we look forward to continuing our relationship,” Churchill CEO Bill Carstanjen said in the announcement.

 

 

 

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