SBJ/May 11 - 17, 1998/No Topic Name

Out of the gate with Tim Smith

Tim Smith, the first ever commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, has lived a lot of lives in his 49 years.

His resume includes stints in Washington in the 1970s as a lawyer and then as an aide to President Jimmy Carter. He worked as deputy director of the PGA Tour in the 1980s and helped develop a plan that increased its revenues from $17 million in 1981 to more than $400 million today.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, having left the PGA, Smith created several new businesses. As owner or Atlanta-based International Sports and Entertainment Strategies, he prepared the initial marketing plan for the 1996 Olympic Games and helped reorganize the ATP Tour. He also is an investor in a plan to develop a full-service hotel in downtown Atlanta.

"His background as a lawyer and his political savvy in Washington is important to us, " said R.D Hubbard, chairman of Hollywood Park and one of the racing executives who tapped Smith for the NTRA slot. IN addition to marketing, thoroughbred racing, Hubbard said Smith will be fighting future industry battles in Washington.

Smith was hired by the thoroughbred industry in 1997 to consult on the fan decline in thoroughbred racing. He is the architect of the NTRA plan to rejuvenate the sport, which includes a $20 million national television campaign, that bean airing in late April.

"I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work in other sports, but this one had the most upside potential," Smith said of the NTRA job.

Smith grew up in the Washington, D.C area, and is the son of journalist Merriman Smith, who won the Pulitzer Price for his coverage of the Kennedy assassination.

"I saw how hard my farther worked," he said. "He was at the very top of his profession, but he probably earned less than a third-string Washington lawyer," he said.

A graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, Smith said the smartest thing he ever did was quitting law to go into the sports business.

Despite the naysayers, Smith has no fear that the NTRA will fail at its mission. He said the industry’s problem is a structural one, with every track having to fend for itself in the absence of national coordination or brand name.

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