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Equestrian Center Hit by Cutbacks : Griffith Park: Polo school and restaurant at the money-losing facility are closed by owner Gibraltar Savings, which has been seized by federal regulators.

December 22, 1989|AMY LOUISE KAZMIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forty people will lose their jobs in major cutbacks at the financially troubled Los Angeles Equestrian Center, which lost more than $1 million dollars in 1989, according to officials of Gibraltar Savings.

The center's polo school, which served between 25 to 30 students, and restaurant will be closed indefinitely in an effort to minimize the center's losses, James P. Boyle, Gibraltar's chief executive officer, said Thursday.

Gibraltar's cost-cutting culminates a turbulent year for the savings and loan and the equestrian center, located on 70 acres of city property in Griffith Park. In March, federal regulators seized Gibraltar in the wake of heavy losses stemming in part from its commercial real estate troubles.

Gibraltar is the largest savings and loan being operated under federal supervision.

Forty people--30 from the restaurant, five from the polo school and five from administrative services--will lose their jobs when the cutbacks take effect Jan. 2, Boyle said.

The closures are the latest signs of the beleaguered equestrian center's continuing financial woes.

"The numbers really dictate that we have to take this action now," Boyle said. He declined to specify how much money the restaurant and polo school lose each month, but he estimated that Gibraltar has lost between $80,000 and $100,000 a month on the center since it foreclosed on former operator J. Albert Garcia in 1988.

Officials with the Resolution Trust Corp., a new federal agency formed to deal with the financial troubles of the nation's savings and loan institutions, have been seeking buyers for Gibraltar and expect to sell it next year.

Before that happens, though, Gibraltar officials hope to sell the equestrian center lease to a group of businessmen led by a semi-retired Burbank banker.

Their plans received a setback in August, they said, when the city's Board of Recreation and Parks rejected proposed changes in Gibraltar's lease agreement that would have made the center more marketable.

The group is still considering the purchase, but in the meantime, "Gibraltar cannot continue to fund losses," said Richard Post, senior vice president of the savings and loan.

Gibraltar's announcement came in the wake of another from the Cadillac division of General Motors Corp., which had been subsidizing polo matches in the Equidome, that it was withdrawing its sponsorship, said Sako Baghdassarian, manager of the equestrian center.

Baghdassarian said he has several prospective sponsors, but the future of polo matches at the center is cloudy.

The restaurant may open occasionally for big events, but most of the time, the only food available will be snacks at concession windows, Post said.

Built in 1981 amid protests and legal challenges from residents who feared noise, congestion and odor, the center has suffered losses of more than $27 million.

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