Delaware Park to Change Ownership as Rickman Family Exits

The Delaware Park is changing ownership after 38 years under the control of the Rickman family who saved it from financial ruin. The new owners, Clairvest Group Inc and Rubico Gaming LLC revealed the purchase on Friday, rounding up the week on a positive note.

Rubico is a new subsidiary run by investor Thomas Benninger who has been growing his footprint in the gaming and entertainment sector. So far, Benninger has stakes in several gaming companies and casinos and he sits on the board of directors at Caesars Entertainment Corp. While the deal has been confirmed, details about it have been scant.

Delaware Park president Bill Fasy said that there were no immediate changes in day-to-day operations expected, but denied to comment on the sale price. Delaware Park should change ownership officially by the end of the year, and the property will be the 30th racetrack or casino venue that Clairvest has made a move on, whether through a direct buy-out or a stake.

Before the deal can be settled, regulators would need to approve it. Meanwhile, the White Clay Creek Country Club that is located next to the race track will still be controlled by the Rickmans.

The Racetrack History and Rickman Connection

William Rickman Sr. came to the property’s rescue in 1983 when he was 63 years old. He snaffled up the Delaware Park and helped shape it as a landmark in horse racing in the state, a status it already arguably had. While competition from neighboring tracks was an issue, Rickman Sr. managed to establish the Delaware Park as a pivotal venue on the horse racing calendar.

Built in 1870, the venue has a big historic significance. After 10 years of running the business, Rickman Sr. passed the reins over to William Rickman Jr., his son. The man himself passed away in 2005. Negotiations between Clairvest and the Rickmans have been ongoing since 2020, with Fasy directly involved in the talks it seems.

The family was interested to divest its stake in racetracks, it seemed, to refocus its efforts on real estate. In 2017, the Rickman family divested its Ocean Downs in Berlin, Maryland. The casino and racetrack was sold only 17 years after it was originally purchased in 2000.

Horse racing in the United States has taken some hits over the years, with many race tracks forced to shut down. The pandemic deprived the industry of $5 billion and its popularity seemingly dipped.

In the past two decades, the horse racing industry has seen a 50% drop in the overall betting handle placed across the nation, and dozens of racetracks have closed. While the Rickman family is moving out of what seems like an unstable market, Clairvest Group Inc and Rubico Gaming LLC seem confident enough to invest in.

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