Jockey Club To Buy Controlling Interest In Blood-Horse Publications

by | 02.26.2015 | 3:02pm

A deal in the works since last summer is expected to close Friday with The Jockey Club purchasing a controlling 51 percent interest in Blood-Horse Publications from the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the Paulick Report has learned. Terms of the pending deal, which was announced to Blood-Horse employees on Thursday afternoon, were not available.

Based in Lexington, Ky., Blood-Horse Publications publishes its weekly flagship magazine of the same name and the monthly horse health magazine The Horse. It also operates a custom publishing division and publishes several annual statistical guides, including the Stallion Register and True Nicks, along with websites for its two primary publications. It was not confirmed if all of the properties were included in the deal.

The Blood-Horse magazine began publication in 1916 and has paid circulation estimated at about 20,000.

Blood-Horse Publications is a for-profit company led by a board of trustees elected by the TOBA board. Stuart S. Janney III, chairman of the Blood-Horse board of trustees, is also vice chairman of The Jockey Club. The other four Blood-Horse trustees (G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Antony Beck, Dr. J. David Richardson, and D.G. Van Clief Jr.) also are members of The Jockey Club. Peter Willmott, the chairman of TOBA, is a Jockey Club member and a steward – part of the private organization's inner circle.

TOBA's primary function, aside from ownership of Blood-Horse Publications, is to oversee the American Graded Stakes program. It also promotes horse ownership through owner education programs and operates Thoroughbred Charities of America, which in 2009 became its primary charitable branch.

The Jockey Club had net assets of $33.7 million in 2012, according to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the most recent year available. TOBA had net assets of $234,438, excluding its ownership of Blood-Horse Publications, according to 2013 IRS records.

TOBA, as a tax-exempt company, is not permitted to derive direct financial benefits from its for-profit subsidiary, though Blood-Horse Publications has contributed upwards of $225,000 per year to TOBA's educational programs in recent years. TOBA has suffered declining membership and revenues, falling  from $1.4 million total revenue in 2009 to $918,592 in 2013, a drop of 35 percent.  TOBA has tightened its belt and shifted some expenses to Thoroughbred Charities of America, including some staff salaries (which rose from $59,357 at TCA in 2009 to $136,733 in 2011).

The Jockey Club, also tax exempt, has a portfolio of for-profit companies, including The Jockey Club Information Services (which currently sells data to The Blood-Horse and other companies), InCompass Solutions, The Jockey Club Technology Service, TJC Media Ventures and part ownership of Equibase, the Thoroughbred industry's official data base.

The Blood-Horse and its affiliated publications are located at 3101 Beaumont Center Circle, a building the company bought for $4.6 million in 2003 and refinanced for $3.2 million in a 2013 mortgage. There are approximately 50 full-time employees, less than half the number employed by Blood-Horse Publications in 2008. The global economic crisis  of 2008 resulted in declines in the bloodstock industry and steadily falling advertising revenue that led to several rounds of layoffs.

The sale comes shortly after Blood-Horse magazine writers earned two 2014 Eclipse Awards, one for multi-media and another in the feature writing category.

Thoroughbred Daily News has reported that John Keitt, one-time general counsel to the Associated Press and a consultant in technology, intellectual property and media, would be named the new publisher of Blood-Horse Publications.

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