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December 7, 2017

Deal for Scarborough Downs will preserve jobs, keep ownership local

Two former owners of Michaud Distributors are part of an ownership group that will buy Scarborough Downs.

The deal brings new hope for the 480-parcel, a long-time horse-racing venue that saw a decline in recent years. The property is under contract.

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close early next year, were not disclosed. The property was listed last year at $7.5 million for the land value, according to the Portland Press Herald.

On Thursday Cross Roads Holdings, the buyers' holding company, said it is in the discovery phase for determining the property's best uses, according to a press release. As part of the purchase negotiation, it has agreed to lease back the track to its existing owners and preserve more than 60 jobs.

The buyers are from two families with strong business ties in Maine. The management team will be made up of William, Marc and Rocco Risbara III, of Risbara Bros., a construction company, and Peter and Richard Michaud, formerly of Michaud Distributors. They're all from Scarborough.

"As lifelong residents and business owners we believe Scarborough is the best town in Maine. We were raised here. We raised our kids here and we hope that our grandkids will be raised here too. We care about our town's future and it would be a privilege for us to develop this land," said Rocco Risbara III.

Risbara Bros., is a second-generation residential and commercial construction company. Founded in 1968 by Rocco Jr. and Maria, Risbara Bros. has been part of numerous development projects in Scarborough. Rocco Jr. and Maria are the parents of the three brothers involved in the Scarborough Downs deal.

Michaud Distributors, founded in 1980 by Richard Michaud Sr., was distributor of snack foods to supermarkets. The company had 200 employees when it was sold in 2013. The Risbaras and Michauds are founders and co-owners of several other Scarborough-based companies, including Maine Properties LLC and M&R Holdings.

"Our family and employees are excited to work with respected, local business owners," said Denise Terry, whose mother Sharon Terry took over ownership of Scarborough Downs after the death of her husband, long-time owner Joe Ricci. "For years, we sought after prospective buyers that were connected to the community and willing to work toward the preservation of our heritage. The Risbara and Michaud families present a perfect match."

A deal with a Massachusetts buyer fell through in June, according to multiple news reports at the time. More recently, the town pitched it to Amazon as a potential second headquarters -- which a town official acknowledged at the time "was the longest of long shots," the Forecaster reported.

Despite the challenges faced by the harness racing industry, Scarborough Downs has hosted live races since 1950.

The town of Scarborough is in the midst of developing a new comprehensive plan and the redevelopment of this land has been named a top priority by residents.

"This team has a great track record and I'm confident that they will have Scarborough's best interest in mind as they redevelop this property," says Thomas Hall Town Manager. "We look forward to working with them."

Cross Roads Holdings is doing inspections and surveying the land as part of the due diligence process. The deal is expected to close early next year. Cross Roads Holdings will work collaboratively with the town, residents and end-users to determine the most successful and desirable ways to develop the large portion of land in the center of town. A master plan will be presented for review this winter.

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