The New York Racing Association used the draw for the Belmont Stakes (G1) June 7 to announce the formation of a new board of directors that officially moves the racing corporation from a period of state government control back into private hands.
The new privatized NYRA board will be chaired by Michael Del Giudice, a longtime player in various gubernatorial administrations in Albany, including that of current Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Del Giudice has been the de facto chairman of NYRA for several years, though his title had remained as vice chairman.
Joining the board as full voting members are Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, and Richard Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
The state Legislature, as part of a budget plan passed in April, provided that the horsemen and breeders group both go from non-voting members of NYRA to voting members.
The rest of the board’s members remain unchanged from the previously state-controlled body, with the exception of the departure of board members Bob Megna, a state university official on Long Island and a former top budget aide to Cuomo, and Leonard Riggio, a Thoroughbred breeder and owner and is the chairman of Barnes & Noble.
The state took control of NYRA’s board in 2012 for what was originally supposed to have been a three-year oversight period. Cuomo and lawmakers battled over how a privatized board would function, how much state regulatory oversight and powers the government would still retain over NYRA, and the composition of the board.
The new board, by law, is required to be composed of 17 members. The Wednesday announcement by Chris Kay, president and chief executive officer of NYRA, fills 16 of those seats. The state Assembly has not yet tapped one of its two appointees.
Kay said NYRA is pleased to have so many holdovers on the new board.
“These board members helped our organization achieve meaningful progress in strengthening NYRA’s financial foundation,” Kay said.
Kay, under the new law, also becomes a full voting member of the NYRA board.
Other board members include C. Steven Dunker, Bobby Flay, Marc Holliday, Stuart Janney III, Timothy Mara, Andrew Rosen, Joseph Spinelli, and Stuart Subotnick. They were all appointed by the executive committee of the former reorganization board.
The state government, as it did before the 2012 takeover, still retains appointment powers over some of the new NYRA board. Del Giudice and Vincent Tese were both appointed to the new board by Cuomo. Tese is another longtime advisor to Cuomo and Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father who was governor of New York for 12 years until 1994.
Earle Mack and Michael Dubb were tapped by state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, while Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appointed Georgeanna Nugent and has one selection still to make.
The return to private hands means that a majority of the board is no longer directly appointed by the state, or more precisely as NYRA has been for the past five years, by appointees of Cuomo. NYRA still, however, is subject to fiscal scrutiny by a state oversight panel organized in 2008, as well as regulators at the New York Gaming Commission.