SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the wake of former New York Racing Association president and CEO Christopher Kay’s departure under an ethics cloud, NYRA has given its interim president the permanent appointment.
NYRA announced Tuesday that David O’Rourke will assume the role of president and CEO permanently, effective immediately. He had been serving as interim CEO since Jan. 23, when Kay resigned, reportedly after NYRA employees were documented doing yard work at his Saratoga Springs home.
NYRA gave no official explanation for Kay’s departure, but earlier this month told a state regulating board that it is revising its code of conduct and will increase ethics training.
O’Rourke, 45, has been with NYRA for more than a decade. He joined the organization in 2008 as director of financial planning, and was named vice president for corporate development in 2010. In 2013, he was appointed chief revenue officer and senior vice president, responsible for NYRA’s business development strategies in industry relations, simulcast markets and contracts, television strategy, advance deposit wagering operations and capital projects.
NYRA operates horse racing tracks at Belmont and Aqueduct in the New York City area and Saratoga Race Course.
Unlike Kay, who had an outside business background and previously headed Toys ‘R’ Us when he joined NYRA in 2013, O’Rourke has a background in the racing industry, a NYRA announcement noted.
“David has made significant and lasting contributions to NYRA since he joined the organization more than a decade ago,” said NYRA Board Chairman Michael Del Giudice. “He possesses broad expertise in nearly every facet of the industry, enjoys deep respect among his NYRA colleagues and industry peers, and understands how the sport and the business will continue to evolve in the future. His combination of skills and obvious leadership ability made this an easy choice and we congratulate David on this appointment.”
In a news release, NYRA credited O’Rourke with spearheading the development and growth of key initiatives, including NYRA Bets and the expansion of live television coverage of races at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.
“We have made tremendous progress as an organization over the past several years, but there is still much work to be done to continue to grow our racing product during an era of unprecedented competition and change within the sports and entertainment industry,” O’Rourke said in a news release. “I thank the NYRA board for this opportunity and will continue to rely upon the outstanding talent within our organization as we work closely with industry partners and stakeholders to build upon our successes.”
O’Rourke is a member of the board of directors of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and a member of the Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board.
O’Rourke is a NYRA appointee to the Local Advisory Board, which includes 15 members appointed by NYRA, Saratoga Springs, and Saratoga County. It was established by law in 2008 to “ensure open dialogue between NYRA and the Saratoga community regarding the present and future of Saratoga Race Course.”
In a departure from the past, the 2019 Saratoga meet will begin July 11, and run five days a week through Labor Day, with Mondays and Tuesdays dark. The Saratoga meet is starting about a week early due to construction of a NHL hockey rink on the Belmont property over the next two years.
NYRA will also be opening a $30 million luxury clubhouse, the 1863 Club, at the track. It is the largest capital improvement at the historic Union Avenue track in more than a half-century.
He holds an MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans and is a graduate of Richard Stockton College in New Jersey.
Before joining NYRA, O’Rourke worked in finance as a member of the Zolfo Cooper and Capstone Advisory Group corporate restructuring practices. He also served as vice president of operations at Datek Online.