Nick Nicholson will retire Sept. 1 as president and chief executive officer of Keeneland, and will be replaced by Bill Thomason, the association’s vice president and chief financial officer.
The Keeneland board of trustees selected Thomason during its meeting April 18 in Lexington.
Nicholson will remain in an advisory role with Keeneland and continue to work with the racing and sales company on domestic and international relationships, officials said.
Thomason joined the Keeneland leadership team in June 2010. He previously served for 28 years as financial and administrative manager at Mill Ridge Farm.
Nicholson, 64, has been president of Keeneland for 13 years.
“It has been an honor to serve the community and the industry as president of Keeneland,” Nicholson said in a statement. “I have enjoyed every single day of it and have just as much passion for the future of our sport as I did on my first day at Keeneland.
“While I will miss the daily interaction with the fans and the Keeneland family, I am thrilled with the selection of Bill Thomason. Bill has incomparable experience in both the financial and equine sectors. He is knowledgeable in both the racing and sales aspects of our business, and knows all that is involved in bringing a consignment to the Keeneland sales.
“In my opinion he is uniquely poised to lead Keeneland during this vitally important time for Thoroughbred racing.”
Louis Lee Haggin III, one of three Keeneland trustees along with William S. Farish and Bill Lear Jr., said the board respects Nicholson’s decision to retire.
“Through this process, we have examined leaders inside and outside of the industry, and unquestionably have found the right person to lead Keeneland and provide the necessary continuity,” Haggin said. “We are confident that the momentum Nick has created will continue with Bill and the current leadership team for many years to come.”
Thomason is a board member on the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, and he formerly served as assistant treasurer for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders. He also was a member of the audit committee of the Breeders’ Cup and previously served as treasurer of the Thoroughbred Club of America.
“I am truly humbled by this and appreciate the trustees’ confidence in the direction that Keeneland Association is heading,” Thomason said. “Under Nick’s guidance Keeneland has maintained the finest traditions of Thoroughbred racing, as its mission demands, while leading the way in finding solutions to complex industry problems.”