Christopher Kay was named president and
CEO of The New York Racing Association, Inc.
(NYRA) following unanimous approval by its
board of directors at a meeting on June 18.
The appointment became effective July 1.
Leadership at NYRA, which operates
the state’s three major thoroughbred
horseracing tracks, including Saratoga
race Course, has been in flux since Charles
Hayward was fired as president and CEO in
May 2012 as the result of a takeout scandal,
in which NYRA overcharged its bettors for a
15-month period. Ellen McClain, the chief
financial officer during the takeout issue,
had served as interim president and CEO
before resigning in April.
There were 100 candidates for the job,
according to the executive search firm RSR
Partners, hired by the NYRA board to conduct
the job search.
Kay, 60, most recently served as chief operating officer for The Trust for Public Land, where he oversaw the operations of the land conservation organization’s headquarters and 37 field offices.
“After a careful search involving many highly qualified candidates, we are delighted to select Chris as our new president and CEO,” said NYRA Chairman David J. Skorton. “His wide range of expertise and skills–including experience in the legal, regulatory and corporate governance environments–will serve him extremely well in his new position at NYRA.”
“I’m honored by the confidence expressed in me by the NYRA board,” said Kay. “Thoroughbred racing is an important part of the lives of so many–including the hundreds of thousands of fans who have loyally supported us through the years. I will work hard to earn their trust and respect as we embark upon an extremely important chapter of NYRA’s history. Working with the talented professionals at NYRA and its dedicated and experienced board, I anticipate an exciting and successful future for our sport.”
Michael Del Giudice, NYRA board member and chairman of the Nominations and Governance Committee, said kay’s “unique blend of experience in retail, theme parks, sports and legal helped set him apart during this extensive search. We look forward to working with him as NYRA moves forward in the months and years ahead.”
Prior his tenure with The Trust for Public Land, Kay was a consultant to Universal Parks & resorts, serving as its managing director of international business development. From 2001-2006, Kay served as the chief operating officer for Toys ‘r’ Us, a Fortune 200 international company, and prior to that he was the retailer’s executive vice president of operations and general counsel. Kay was also a minority owner of Orlando’s AA baseball team and a member of the ownership group that sought to obtain the first Major League Baseball franchise in Florida.
Kay is a graduate of the University of Missouri and of the Duke University School of Law.
“I am confident that we have found the right person to lead NYRA forward,” said board member Stuart S. Janney III, who was also a member of the search committee for the vacant CEO position. “Throughout his career, Chris has demonstrated the type of leadership and strategic vision so crucial to NYRA’s future success.”
Another member of the search committee, Jane Rosenthal, said Kay “has a thorough understanding of the need to develop and drive brand strategies in a competitive and ever-changing environment. He supported and enhanced the Toys ‘r’ Us brand in every country in which it did business and sought to introduce the Universal Studios theme park brand to new countries as its managing director.”
“We were fortunate to choose from an abundance of fine candidates, but Chris’s business and leadership skills stamped him as our first preference,” said board and search committee member Earle Mack. “I know the board and others will enjoy working with Chris once he takes over.”