On last Saturday’s telecast of Pegasus World Cup Day from Gulfstream Park, Belinda Stronach, chairwoman and CEO of The Stronach Group, which owns the racetrack, adeptly served as host by providing an on-air television interview and graciously presenting trophies to winning owners. However, all is not well in the Stronach family, as daughter Belinda and her father Frank are embroiled in lawsuits against one another, with bitterness apparent in the allegations made in the filings.

As a young man, Austrian Frank Stronach immigrated to Canada, virtually penniless, but proceeded to start and build what is today Magna International, the largest North American parts manufacturer for the automobile industry. He used some of his hard-earned wealth to launch and build a horse-racing empire that encompasses breeding and racing, Xpressbet, and racetracks–most notably Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita–under the banner of the privately-held The Stronach Group.

In October 2018, 86-year-old Frank Stronach sued his daughter Belinda, one of her business associates, and two of his own grandchildren, who are trustees of The Stronach Group, for mismanaging the company’s assets and constraining his control. In January 2019, Belinda Stronach countersued, asserting that her father undertook “idiosyncratic and often unprofitable projects.”  She referred to his “declining mental state.”

Intra-family quarrels over business dealings are commonplace. For example, high-profile disputes include Tory and (former husband) Chris Burch, the Gucci family, the Koch family, and daughter Shari Redstone versus her 95-year-old media-magnate father, Sumner Redstone. George Strawbridge, a prominent racehorse owner and Campbell Soup heir, recently partnered with an activist investment firm to fight some of his own cousins over board seats and who should lead the underperforming company.

Without knowing the veracity of the claims made in the Stronach lawsuits, it is not possible to say whether Belinda Stronach or her father Frank has the most facts on their side. It comes down to whether daughter is truly trying to protect a father with diminished mental acuity and the businesses he built or whether she is engaged in a raw power play.

Cal Turner Jr., former chairman and CEO of Dollar General, described in his book “My Father’s Business” the hurt he experienced when he fired his father, who co-founded Dollar General, and his younger brother from the company. For most people, it would be painful, to say the least, and leave a mental wound that would never go away. The Stronachs are likely feeling similar anguish and regret.

There is an element of truth to the old adage about never doing business with friends or family.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business