Where Are the Professionals?

Yesterday on social media there was quite the brouhaha regarding yesterdays CHRB meeting. Apparently the CHRB Chair led what several called an unprofessional meeting. I can't really comment on it, because I have not listened to the meeting. Whether what was reported was opinion or fact, truth or fiction, doesn't really matter in the following post, though.

I was speaking with someone from California a few weeks ago about the situation there, and let's face it, it's a mess. A major track closing with seemingly no back up plan. Massive handle losses since 2000. Short fields, track changes; we can go on. This person spoke about the people who are running the sport in the Golden State and said they were good people. I have no reason not to believe this. If you love this sport you love this sport. You don't try and hurt it and I think no one out there is trying to do that.

What I said to this person was 'it's all across racing. We simply do not have CEO smart, experienced people running the good ship racing'.

Bob Evans is CEO smart, and by all accounts does a great job. But he works for CDI's shareholders and employees, not racing and they can probably be considered a gaming or casino company anyway. There are several (many?) others like him in our sport, like Nick Eaves at Woodbine.

But when it comes to the running of the sport, with vision, passion, hard work and smarts, we have a void. A big void. We have board appointments who knows someone who knows someone. We have horsemen group heads who I am sure do a good job, but are generally much better at keeping a horse sound, not making high level decisions to keep a billion dollar plus business sound.

In this day and age open a newspaper and you'll see CEO's being bashed left and right. Some of them deserve it, but most don't. A 'CEO type' does not get to be a CEO type by being what you read. It takes a lot of hard work, some serious book learning, 18 hour workdays that last many years, and some major time spent in the trenches. People like Meg Whitman of HP, which is in the midst of a nice business turnaround, are not your average everyday person. That's some talent.

This talent is witnessed in hundreds of good organizations with budgets ranging from tens to hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, from hundreds of employees to many thousands like at HP. In racing, (for example, in California) the racing business, in terms of revenues, can dwarf many of the companies you read about in the Wall Street Journal. They support more jobs than a Fortune 500 company does.

But who is making the decisions for this multi-billion dollar business? Political appointees in makeshift meetings.

I'm not bashing the people who are lending their time, who care about the sport of racing. I am not going to bash the CHRB members. It's just that they don't have the tools to succeed in this huge task. Not many do.

It's not their fault. It's our sports' fault for letting it happen by not ensuring a billion dollar business employs the people experienced enough to run one.


jamesp said...

PTP - Long-time reader and fan of your blog. Keeping the who-is-in-charge-of-racing discussion going is a good thing. But.......

I can't let it go that you are using Meg Whitman as a shining example of leadership. And this is neither a left/right, liberal/conservative observation:

Whitman embodies the back-scratching, board room culture that owns America, runs Washington, DC, and controls the media. They nearly sunk the world economy a few years ago and can do it again tomorrow with the same lack of accountability and remorse as in '07/'08. Follow the money trail and check her ties to Hank Paulson and her Goldman Sachs board seat.

People like her are "bashed left and right" for very good, well-analyzed reasons.

Pull the Pocket said...

Hi Sunny,

Stripping the politics out, I was referring to her initiating a five year turnaround plan for success. It has vision, is smart and takes some leadership. They are 18 months into it, but it is sound. So far it is working (full disclosure, six or so months ago I bought HP because they looked to be finally attacking their problems with Whitman)

I think the same way in racing: We need a five year plan. We don't need to switch surfaces one year, switch back the next. We don't need half assed takeout reductions for pick 5s. We dont need a hundred other band aid things we see in racing, which are not focused on a long term prize of growth.

That's the point of the post, present examples excluded or included.

Thanks for the comment!



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