8 June 2008 – Sunday Telegraph
Michael Howard, the former Conservative Party leader, is to become chairman of Northern Racing, the racecourse company that is controlled by the Reuben Brothers.
Howard, who joined the company as a non-executive director in February, will lead the board after the £90m acquisition of Northern Racing by the property magnates David and Simon Reuben in April last year.
The company owns nine racecourses around the country, including Chepstow, Newcastle and Bath and accounts for 14 per cent of the fixtures in the UK through its more than 200 race meetings.
Howard, the leader of the Conservatives from 2003 to 2005, is a keen follower of horse racing. He has recently spoken publicly of the potential for the sport to grow through clever marketing and the Reubens are likely to be looking for him to take a lead in that area.
As well as his knowledge of the sport as a spectator, Howard also oversaw the Conservative Government’s relationship with the horseracing industry as Home Secretary in the 1990s, via the Levy Board and the Tote.
At the time he was reported to have seen off an attempt by the Treasury to sell off the Tote, a move that is now being pushed through by the Labour Government. Howard, who has previously said he intends to stand down from Parliament at the next General Election, holds a clutch of non-executive directorships at businesses including Entrée Gold, the miner, Amteus, the telecommunications expert, and the steel operator Offshield. He is also the chairman of Diligence, the business information and risk-management company.
Northern Racing, a former AIM-listed company, made earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of £6.2m last year, up 6.9 per cent on 2006, as it focused on its growing event and venue hire business. Like-for-like sales rose 8.6 per cent.
At the time of Northern Racing’s results in January, group managing director Tony Kelly said the company had lost 13 race meetings to the weather in 2007, but that higher attendances and takings showed the “continuing attraction of the sport of horse racing.”
Odds on a sale of the Tote could be improving after Goldman Sachs in recent days submitted a report to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Goldman has put a value on the Tote with the Government is expected to find sufficiently attractive to launch an auction.