Jul 27, 2017

Horse racing bible gets a new owner

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Private equity firm Z Capital Partners has acquired the parent company of Daily Racing Form, which has been covering horse-racing for more than 100 years.

History: Private equity firm Arlington Capital Partners bought Daily Racing Form in a secondary buyout for a highly-levered $170-$190 million in 2007. But it never really could pull off the digital transformation so, several years back, it defaulted and control went to the banks. Z Capital first looked four or five years ago during an initial auction process that never got consumated, and got a call when the banks restarted the process several months ago.

Counterintuitive: Z Capital's Since there is nothing we media folks like more than to discuss media, I spent some time on the phone with Z Capital's Jim Zenni says the company pulled off the digital switch under bank control, and that the digital margins are actually higher than were the print margins. That's not how most newspapers have viewed the world, but he argues that DRF is more of a data provider than an ad-driven news provider. Moreover, DRF now has a major online betting component.

Trendlines: "Obviously attendance at tracks have declined, but the amount of online wagering has increased a bit. And the amount of advanced deposit wagering has been growing at between 15% to 20% per year," Zenni says. He adds that the deal shouldn't cause too much heartburn for Z Capital's limited partners, given that his firm already owns casinos.

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