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SARATOGA: Board member severs ties with Empire

A former Empire Racing board member, currently being investigated by the state lobbying commission for providing free air travel to State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, has severed all ties with the racing firm.

On Dec. 26, via a statement on the company's Web site, Empire Racing announced that it has reached a mutual agreement with Jared Abbruzzese that he will divest all of his interests in the organization and that Empire Racing will repurchase those interests immediately.

Today's announcement is the culmination of a process that began in October when Mr. Abbruzzese decided to leave the Empire Racing board, citing a distraction created by inquiries into activities unrelated to the company. Since then, discussions have been under way to divest Mr. Abbruzzese's financial interests as well. That process is now complete, reads the statement.

Earlier this month, media reports maintain Bruno, who represents part of Saratoga Springs, directed $500,000 in state grant money over the past two years to a private company linked to Abbruzzese. That company, Evident Technologies, a private nanotechnology company based in Bruno's district, received grants through the Empire State Development Corp. Those funds came from "member items" that Bruno controlled.

Empire's 16-member board is chaired by Jeffrey Tucker, owner of Schuylerville's Stonebridge Farm, and in addition to Perlee includes four other local directors. They are Robin Malatino, former CEO of Saratoga Beverage; Thomas Newkirk, president of Saratoga National Golf Club; Charles Reis, a New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association repre-sentative of Shushan, Washington County; and honorary chair-woman Marylou Whitney.

The news of Abbruzzese's departure came days after Empire Racing Associates CEO Jeff Perlee announced that taking his firm public was a high priority.

"We have always envisioned this as being a public company at some point," said Perlee, an Empire board member. "That would be an appropriate path."

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