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No asking price as Ayr is put up for sale

AYR has become the second British racecourse to be put up for sale in less than 72 hours, but whereas Towcester went on the market with a £10 million tag on Wednesday, the operators of Scotland's premier venue, who paid a little over £9m for the course five years ago, have declined to name a guide price for the dual-purpose site.

Managing director Richard Johnstone said on Friday: "We've deliberately not given a price indication because there are two parts to the property, the freehold hotel and the racecourse operation, for which a 99-year ground lease is being made available to ensure that racing will continue.

"Ideally, we want to sell the whole, but there's a possibility we could sell one part and not the other."

Christie & Co, which specialises in hotel and leisure properties, has been appointed agent to oversee the sale, whose announcement has been timed to coincide with the course's Gold Cup fixture in a fortnight's time.

Johnstone said: "We want to show potential buyers thatas a trading operation the business is thriving.

"Advanced bookings and corporate hospitality for the Gold Cup meeting are at record levels, and this year's crowds to date are the highest for more than 50 years."             

Johnstone and his partner in the business, local property developer and builder Alan Macdonald, who acquired the site from the private Western Meeting Club, have taken the decision to sell now because, having spent more than £14m on improvements, immediate access to finance that will carry Ayr through the rest of its masterplan is out of their reach.

Macdonald said: "Cross-funding to finance our intention to ensure a long-term, sustainable future as Scotland's only grade one track, and to bring all the facilities up to a high standard, was to come from residential and commercial developments on surplus land.

"The planning process took five years, considerably longer than anticipated, and though we now have planningconsents in place, the property market is such that it could be a few years before theirvalue can be realised."

Johnstone said: "I really don't know who'll be interested in the property. It could be a racecourse group, individual courses, or private investors.

"But it definitely offers someone great value, because management is in place to continue and both businesses - the racecourse and Western House hotel - operate profitably."

Macdonald added: "We've turned a sleeping giant into a vibrant,multi-purpose business, but the time is right to hand over the baton."


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