April 12, 2008

The oldest thoroughbred auction company in the United States has been sold to a Dubai-based firm.

Fasig-Tipton has been bought by Synergy Investments Ltd, a company headed by Abdulla Al Habbai, a close associate of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and owner of Godolphin Racing and the Darley breeding operation.

Founded in 1898, Fasig-Tipton currently conducts auctions in Lexington, Kentucky; Saratoga Springs, New York; Timonium, Maryland; Miami, Florida; and Grand Prairie, Texas.

It all began when William Fasig and Edward Tipton sold trotters and pacers in Madison Square Garden. The privately owned firm has been controlled by the Hettinger family of Pawling since the early 90s.

"We are delighted to be acquiring Fasig-Tipton," Abdulla Al Habbai said. "The company has a long history of service to the North American Thoroughbred industry and has demonstrated significant growth in recent years. We believe there is potential for continued growth."

Fasig-Tipton chairman D.G. Van Clief, in announcing his firm's sale, said Darley's chief bloodstock agent John Ferguson had made an approach to suggest Synergy might be interested in buying the company.

"Our agreement includes an understanding that Fasig-Tipton will be operated in a manner consistent with the principles of integrity, customer service, and industry service which have been so critical to our success since controlling interest was obtained by the Hettinger family in 1991.

"Those assurances were critical to John and his son Bill Hettinger, and our entire board of directors, in agreeing to this transaction."

Ferguson said: "Synergy looks forward to building on the legacy which the Hettinger family's support has enabled Fasig-Tipton to achieve. They plan a seamless transition which includes the retention of current staff and management. Moreover, Synergy plans to devote future operating surpluses to higher levels of customer service and renewed efforts to promote North American racing and breeding."

The purchase price for the business has not been disclosed and it will change hands in May, with no major changes expected among its staff of 50.