ALBANY — The New York Racing Association, recently released from the state’s control into private hands, has announced a new board of directors — sort of.
All but two members are the same as when the association was under state control, and one addition is “pending,” according to a prepared statement from the nonprofit organization.
The board — it will eventually have 17 members — was formed in line with legislation passed as part of the state budget in April, which dismantled the temporary NYRA reorganization board created by the state Legislature in 2012, NYRA officials said.
NYRA President and CEO Chris Kay said many of the reorganization board’s members will stay on as members of the new board because they helped move NYRA forward. Bob Megna and Len Riggio are the board members who will not be returning. A 17th board member — the state Assembly majority leader’s second appointee — has yet to be named.
Kay called the board “an accomplished group of business and professional leaders with a depth of experience and involvement in thoroughbred racing in New York State.” The board will be led by Chairman Michael Del Giudice, who is chairman and senior managing director of Rockland Capital, a New York City-based private equity firm, and senior managing director at Millennium Capital Markets, an investment banking firm.
The board includes Richard Violette, a thoroughbred trainer and president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association; Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders; and Georgeanna “Georgie” Nugent, a partner with Epona Racing Stable in Saratoga Springs and former show jumper who lives “less than two furlongs” from Saratoga Race Course, according to her bio at NYRA.com.
Bobby Flay is also on the board. In addition to being an award-winning chef with shows on Food Network, Flay is a horse owner and racing enthusiast, having campaigned stakes winners Her Smile, More Than Real and Sensational Slam, as well as 2016 Belmont Stakes winner Creator.
Kay announced the board’s membership shortly before the Belmont Stakes draw Wednesday in Manhattan.
“These board members helped our organization achieve meaningful progress in strengthening NYRA’s financial foundation, which is so important in light of the fact that NYRA is the cornerstone of an industry that generates over 17,000 jobs — and over $2 billion in economic impact here in New York,” he said in a prepared statement. “Working together with our new management team, we also improved the quality of racing and enhanced the experience for our fans and horseplayers that visit our race tracks or follow our racing online, as reflected in the fact that our Belmont Stakes won the prestigious ‘Sports Event of the Year’ award, and NYRA established record attendance and wagering at our meets at the historic Saratoga Race Course. We look forward to achieving continued success with these fine board members in the future.”
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, said she doesn’t know all of the board members personally, “but the ones I do know are, I think, strong representatives of the industry and are very knowledgeable.
“Many of them are very conscious of the fact that Saratoga is really the crown jewel and is something we have to protect and nurture along.”
Woerner said she is confident the new board will be productive while also noting that the state Legislature established term limits for its members “so they can make sure that the makeup of the board is always productive.”
Woerner and Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, both advocated for NYRA’s return to private hands, which followed five years of state oversight. In defending the takeover in 2012, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointed to a faltering horse-racing industry that relied too much on revenue from video slot machines, as well as decades of scandal.
“I am pleased that we have re-privatized NYRA this year and that they can now operate as a private entity, which I hope will allow them to make more strategic decisions than they have been able to as a board up until this point,” Woerner said. “I’m hopeful and excited to see what they do.”
Board members, who include Kay, have equal voting rights. The new board members are listed by who appointed them:
Chris Kay (NYRA CEO)
Michael Del Giudice (Chairman)
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
(A second appointee is pending)
New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association
New York Thoroughbred Breeders
C. Steven Dunker
Timothy (Chris) Mara
For a full list of biographies, click here.