Saratoga County

Fasig-Tipton sold to Dubai firm

The country’s oldest thoroughbred horse auction company will be sold to a Dubai company with connect

The country’s oldest thoroughbred horse auction company will be sold to a Dubai company with connections to horse racing.

Fasig-Tipton Co. Inc. has reached an agreement with Synergy Investments Ltd., which is headed by Abdulla Al Habbai, a close associate of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

The 110-year-old company will retain its name, employees and management after the sale, said spokesman Terence Collier. He declined to say how much Synergy is paying for the company, which conducts auctions in Saratoga Springs; Lexington, Ky.; Timonium, Md.; Miami; and Grand Prairie, Texas.

Boyd Browning Jr., executive vice president and chief operating officer, said on Thursday he expects the sale to close by the end of May.

Collier said the Synergy investment will allow the company to grow. But he’s not yet sure what the company will do differently.

“I think we’re all taking this in. This has been a whirlwind courtship and negotiation,” Collier said. “I’m sure it is going to change Saratoga, but only for the better.”

Fasig-Tipton employs only one year-round employee at the Saratoga auction house at East and Madison avenues, Plant Manager William Meissner. About two dozen others are employed during the auction season, Collier said.

The company conducts yearling sales from the Saratoga location in August.

Synergy intends to invest future operating surpluses back into the company to improve customer service, Collier said.

The company’s 40 year-round staffers found out about the sale at noon Thursday, and Collier said the negotiations before that were brief, although he declined to say how long.

Synergy approached Fasig-Tipton with an offer, board Chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr. said in a written statement.

The company has been under its current ownership since Dutchess County breeder John Hettinger bought 51 percent of the shares in 1991, Collier said.

Sheikh Mohammed, 59, also owns Darley Stable, which has the impressive 120-acre estate on Nelson Avenue beside Saratoga Race Course. Darley Stable bought the former Stonerside Saratoga property from Robert McNair last year.

Sheikh Mohammed founded Godolphin, a venerable horse training stable based in Dubai.

His brother and the deputy ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan, operate Shadwell Racing.

The Maktoum brothers are one of two major buyers of horses at auction, noted Mike Kane, spokesman for the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs. The other big player is Coolmore, an international breeding organization.

“It’s interesting that they would get into that business themselves,” Kane said of the Maktoum brothers.

He noted that Fasig-Tipton was in a tough financial spot a couple of decades ago but brought the business back.

The company was incorporated in 1898 and is based in Lexington, Ky.

Yearling sales have taken place in Saratoga Springs since the early 1900s, with a hiatus during the World Wars, according to the company’s Web site.

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