SBD/June 19, 2013/People and Pop Culture

NYRA Names Chris Kay President & CEO; BOD Unfazed By Lack Of Industry Experience

Kay's previous dealings in land privatization issues were key factors in his hiring
NYRA yesterday named CHRISTOPHER KAY President & CEO, and his "lack of experience in Thoroughbred racing was not viewed as a negative by the board," according to David Grening of the DAILY RACING FORM. Kay's background with "dealing in complex issues such as land privatization was enough to convince" the board. Kay, who will take over the position on July 1, will become the "first permanent president and CEO at NYRA since CHARLES HAYWARD was fired in May 2012 as the result of a takeout scandal." Kay was "chosen from a pool of more than 100 prospects that were interviewed" by executive search firm RSR Partners. RSR Managing Dir JOHN KEITT said that of that group, "only 28 were racing executives." He added that the racing execs he interviewed "did not have 'the requisite skills' to handle the complexity of the NYRA job." Keitt, when asked if he would hire a COO to run the day-to-day racing operations at NYRA, said, "It’s going to be one of the first things I look at." Grening noted Kay "held executive positions with Toys 'R' Us and Universal Parks and Resorts" before his time with Trust for Public Land (, 6/18). In New York, Paul Post reports the job is "expected to pay $300,000, plus up to $250,000 in performance-based incentives." NYRA has been "run by a three-person management team since late April, when President ELLEN MCCLAIN left to pursue new opportunities" (THE SARATOGIAN, 6/19).

ON THE AGENDA: BLOODHORSE's Teresa Genaro wrote, "Among the issues facing NYRA is the future of Aqueduct Racetrack, the re-privatization of the organization following a three-year state takeover, and the possible opening of full-scale casinos in the state, currently under discussion in Albany." Kay said he "fell in love" with horse racing when he went to the track for the first time at age 19 (, 6/18). Kay said of his priorities with NYRA, "Number one, the Board has provided us with a three-year strategic plan, so I’m going to follow that strategic plan, and execute it. And, to summarize that, number one is going to be to enhance the guest experience for our racing fans and to recruit others to become new racing fans. The second is the re-privatization; to work with the kind of people we have at the table and with state government, and the third is just to improve the quality of racing and purses at every racetrack we operate" (, 6/18).
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