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Common in the horse racing world, purchasing a horse for syndication is a popular investment strategy for horse enthusiasts to get a share of a high-value horse and enjoy revenue or involvement in the sport.
Horse syndication is different from co-ownership, however, and comes with its own benefits and risks. Here’s what you need to know about horse syndication.
A syndicate is an association of persons officially authorized to undertake a duty or negotiate a business, or a group of persons or concerns who combine to carry out a transaction or project.
A horse syndicate is a group of people who come together to purchase shares in a horse. Essentially, they have an agreement to be co-owners with fractional interests in a horse, such as a racehorse, breeding stallion, or show horse.
The intent behind a syndicate is to help a group of people share the cost of purchase and the ongoing maintenance costs if they couldn’t invest otherwise. For example, 10 people could co-own a million-dollar racehorse and share in its upkeep and winnings.
The thoroughbred racing industry made syndication popular. The syndication was created as a way to finance the cost of owning a racehorse and distribute risk across multiple investors.
A famous example of syndication is Funny Cide, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2003. A group of friends pooled resources to purchase the two-year-old, reaping the rewards. Funny Cide went on to win 11 races out of his 38 starts, including five graded stakes. In total, his five-year racing career yielded over $3.5 million.
After the success of syndication in thoroughbred racing, syndicates began to form in other equestrian sports. Now, people can invest in the future of a promising competition or sport horse that’s intended to compete at the upper levels of their respective discipline.
Owners appreciate syndication because it eases the financial burden of maintaining a high-level competition horse. The owner still has the experience and journey, but the risk is shared among other individuals.
This arrangement can work out for services as well. For example, a trainer may own shares of a horse through sweat equity – instead of charging training fees, they receive a share of the horse.
Another benefit is that enthusiasts can get involved in the sport without getting into the everyday nitty-gritty of horse ownership.
Top breeding stallions can be lucrative, but like racehorses, the costs to purchase individually can be astronomical. Stallion syndications allow multiple people to invest in the cost of the stud and earn on its stud fees or gain breeding rights each session for their broodmares.
Breeding stallion syndications can be a little more complex than other syndications. Each owner needs to have breeding rights or stud fee rights outlined in the agreement, requirements for the mares to be bred, and say in the reduction or expansion of the book.
Forever the “Sport of Kings,” horse racing attracts much of the Hollywood and British elite, including famous directors like Steven Spielberg and music stars like Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood and MC Hammer.
Some celebrities take their passion for the sport a step further by backing the development of a promising horse or a breeding group.
Steven Spielberg co-owned the racehorse Atswhatimtalkingabout, who came fourth in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. He also invests in Biscuit Stables, a Delaware-based racing stable.
Yellowstone star Kevin Costner co-owned a number of racehorses out of Hollywood Park in California.
TV presenters Carol Vorderman and Richard Hammond purchased shares in the five-year-old mare Subway Surf with the syndicate Surf On The Turf. She’s trained by H&H racing columnist Kim Bailey.
The host of ITV’s Jeremy Kyle Show recently got involved in a syndicate with the Brooks and Stewart families. Together, they’ve seen success with Black Corton, a Grade One victor, and Old Guard, who has been winning since his start in 2014.
Manchester United owner Sir Alex Ferguson is a part owner of Clan Des Obeaux, the winner of the 2018 renewal of the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
he seven-time Oscar-nominated actress Dame Judi Dench has been a longstanding racehorse owner and now co-owns As De Mee, a six-time winner.
If individuals want to own a race or show horse and don’t have enough capital to invest in the best, syndication allows them to purchase a horse that would otherwise be out of their price range. Pooling their resources may yield horses in the hundreds of thousands or million-dollar range.
It’s not only purchasing the horse, but paying the ongoing costs of horse ownership and maintenance. Syndication reduces the burden of feed, hay, stabling, veterinary care, and farrier services on any one person.
Instead, each person takes their fair share of the expenses, based on their ownership stake.
Particularly with show horse syndication, syndicating a horse allows the competitor to generate cash to compete and invest in their training without being burdened with the cost of a high-level competition horse or its upkeep.
If the competitor already owns the horse, then syndication helps them generate capital to promote or compete and increase the value of the horse.
Diversification is a risk-management technique for investments. Instead of putting “all the eggs in one basket,” investors can back different horses with syndication and achieve a higher level of success.
For example, if an investor backs one horse that ends up with a career-ending injury, the investment goes with it.
With syndication in multiple horses, the investor has other horses to rely on in the event of death or loss of use of one horse.
Syndication is popular for people with passion for horses but little direct horse experience. The horses owned by a syndicate are carefully managed by an experienced equine professional with the level of knowledge to care for high-value animals.
This is also an opportunity for experienced equestrians to own horses without having to deal with all the mundane day-to-day care of each individual horse.
Syndicates are often formed as limited liability corporations (LLCs), limiting the liability any of the shareholders have to their investments. This protects their personal assets and keeps them separate from the investment and any ramifications.
Syndicate members gain experience and connections in the industry through their horse. For example, a prospective horse owner may want to purchase a high-caliber stallion but lacks the experience in breeding to get started. Forming a syndicate with more experienced breeders increases the likelihood of success in the breeding venture.
Syndication is heavily reliant upon the skill of the manager who oversees the horse’s care and training. The manager is also tasked with managing the race, show, or breeding career. Any poor decisions on the part of the manager could put the syndicate owners at risk of losing their investment.
In addition, a manager without adequate business knowledge can make decisions that increase the expenses for the syndicate owners and reduce their revenue opportunities.
The investors in a syndicate only own partial shares of the horse – similar to owning partial shares of a public company. And likewise, they have little-to-no control over the short- or long-term management of the horse.
For this reason, owners who sell shares of their horse with syndication typically retain majority ownership to ensure they have control over their horse’s care and can make decisions for its best interests.
If a syndicate doesn’t form a limited liability company, limited liability partnership, or other structure intended to limit personal liability, the risks can be astronomical. If a syndicate is formed via an agreement without any other formal structure, it’s a de facto partnership.
As a result, any syndicate member could potentially be in debt in the name of the syndicate, leading to personal liability for all syndicate investors.
A syndicate isn’t a one-time investment. It requires ongoing funds for expenses and upkeep, especially if the syndicate members use all their initial investment for purchase. Horses may take time to generate significant income in winning or breeding fees, but in the meantime, the syndicate members are still paying for maintenance.
Horses are always a risky investment. Even with the most careful management and the most promising horse, things can go wrong. The horse could become injured, ending its career, or it may prove to have more heart than talent.
Either way, there’s no guarantee that investing in a syndicate will pay off in the end.
Syndicates are a business venture like any other, and they can fail over disagreements like any business. If the syndicate members don’t work together to solve problems and plan, it could tear the entire venture apart.
Common disagreements that end syndications include conflict over how to handle injuries and setbacks, conflicts in how the horse should be managed, and the price or time to sell the horse.
Before entering into or forming a syndicate, it’s vital to speak with a trusted tax professional to understand the tax benefits and possible consequences.
Before forming a syndicate with investors, consult with an attorney experienced in forming equine syndicates. Otherwise, you could be at risk of violating federal and state securities laws.
Equine co-ownership includes a variety of co-ownership situations for show horses, sale horses, investments, and pleasure horses. The agreement outlines the owners and their percentages, as well as the party responsible for the horse’s expenses. If the horse may win money, the agreement should outline how the winnings are distributed.
Horse syndication is a more complicated legal arrangement that includes customized contracts that outline the rights and responsibilities for all parties. For example, the contract should include whether the syndicate can sell shares on an ongoing basis or who has breeding rights for a stallion.
Before you enter into a syndicate, it’s important to create a detailed business plan with a list of expected expenses, including the cost of purchasing the horse, board, training, veterinary and farrier care, tack and equipment, equine insurance, liability insurance, and more.
The business plan should also cover how the horse is expected to bring income, and when, and how much you anticipate. This isn’t a guarantee, but it can offer projections for return on investment. You should also include details for setbacks like injuries, fertility issues, market declines, etc.
Horse syndicates are unlike other investments. It’s important to work with an equine attorney who understands the nuances of syndicate formation to prevent problems, limit liability, and cover all the important details.
Consulting with a tax professional before entering into a syndicate can maximize the tax advantages and minimize the consequences. A tax professional can also help with tax documents.
Any investor entering into a syndicate should have a list of their expectations. Understanding the expectations and motivations, such as just getting a financial return or having some involvement in the horse’s career or care are important details to iron out in advance.
Beyond capital, what are investors responsible for?
For example, if the horse will be raced, you may need an owner’s license from the state racing commission for the racetracks. People with felony convictions on their record may not be able to obtain an owner’s license.
Likewise, owners of a horse competing in shows may be required to register as an owner with a breed or discipline association. Investors need to be made aware of these requirements before entering into the agreement.
Syndicate managers play a big role in the future of the horse (and the investment). They should be experienced in managing the type of horse at the expected level and managing equine syndicates specifically.
It’s up to the investors to do their due diligence and vet the individual who will set up and manage the syndicate. Big names in the horse industry don’t necessarily mean honesty and a good reputation.
Depending on the size of the investment, it may be beneficial to hire a professional for a background check to unveil any past issues.
A syndicate manager should have a detailed business plan and proposed syndicate agreement for all investors. This should happen before any cash changes hands.
A syndicate agreement is a big decision that should be considered and planned. It’s not intended as a last-minute fundraising option to send a horse to a competition or race. Avoid any urgency on the part of the owner or manager to form a syndicate quickly.
Communication is vital to a successful syndicate. If a manager isn’t responsive or clear, avoids questions, or seems otherwise dodgy, the situation won’t improve once cash is contributed.
A syndicate manager should have information about the horse the syndicate will own. Or if the horse has not yet been purchased, information about the potential horse. The syndicate manager should also divulge information about the other syndicate members and the funding percentages.
Answers to more of your questions about horse syndications.
For riders, syndicates offer an opportunity to purchase a horse they may otherwise not be able to afford and compete with, offsetting some of the expenses. For investors, syndicates offer a chance to get involved in the sport without handling the training or day-to-day care of the horse.
The first step in creating a syndicate should be to choose the horse or the criteria you’ll look for in a horse to purchase. Then, you must determine how much money you need to raise through the syndicate.
The ownership interest purchase price should be based on the cost of the horse, the cost to create an LLC, vetting, transportation, insurance, commission, and any other fees necessary to purchase the horse.
The percentage the investor pays is their ownership percentage or share of the horse. Paying a higher percentage of the cost entitles the investor to more shares of the horse. The majority owner always retains some decision-making rights as outlined by the contract.
The annual maintenance fee is divided between all the syndicate members and put into an account to cover the horse’s expenses. This fee should be discussed in advance so that prospective investors understand their financial obligation on top of their initial investment for purchase.
Your syndicate should always have a contract drafted by an experienced equine attorney that every investor or member signs. This protects all parties involved/
You should update all syndicate members about the horse, including any updates on competitive status or health. You should also remind them of fees and keep them involved and up to date as owners. Finally, you’re responsible for the required returns and tax documents for the syndicate and its members.
With an LLC, the ownership of the entire company has to be accounted for by assigning all of the ownership shares. If not all of the shares are sold, the previous owner of the horse or the manager can hold the shares until they’re sold. When new investors are involved, those shares can be sold to them through ownership transfer with an equine attorney.
Horse syndication is a little more complicated than going in on a horse with a friend or sponsoring a top equestrian athlete. But with the risks come the reward of being co-owner of the next Triple Crown or Grand Prix champion.
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