One day after being named chief executive officer and president of Churchill Downs Inc., Robert Evans told a group of assembled media he is ready to lead the Louisville, Ky.-based racetrack company into the future.
"I am convinced we can do some things differently than we have done in the past if we're willing to have the courage to change things in an effort to build on our future," Evans said during a press conference at the racetrack this morning. "If you look around at the industry at the moment, I think most would agree that we are in a period of significant change. In that change I think there is an opportunity for us to work with other organizations to find new ways of going forward together."
Evans replaces outgoing president Tom Meeker, who served as the company's top executive for 22 years. Evans will officially assume his new position Aug. 14, at which time Meeker will resign as president and CEO. He will also step down from the company's board of directors and Evans will assume his place on the board.
Meeker will continue to serve in an advisory role through the end of his employment contract in March 2007.
Carl Pollard, CDI board chairman, called Evans "a proven business leader with a background in the technology, manufacturing, private equity capital, and Thoroughbred industries." Pollard noted the company interviewed around six candidates for the position, from both inside and outside the Thoroughbred industry.
Evans said he plans to bring his technology experience to the racing industry. While he said there are signs of hope in the way the industry uses technology, he added there is room for improvement.
"We must find innovative, new ways to engage and serve customers. I've spent the past few years of my life hanging out with a group of 25-year-olds who use technology much more differently than we do at the racetrack. We must find new ways to embrace technology," he said. "In addition, we must think globally to expand our market opportunities; and we must make decisions at 'Clock Speed,' and execute those decisions much faster than in the past,"
He expanded by adding, "Technology really doesn't care if it's our friend or foe," Evans said. "It's up to us to define how we use it and make it as valuable as possible."
Evans said while it was too early in his tenure to speculate on the future of CDI and the issues currently facing the industry as a whole, he does plan to meet with representatives of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association concerning CDI's future. He added he intends to speak with Meeker and other advisors concerning what role if any CDI would play in the awarding of the New York Racing Association franchise.
Away from the corporate world, Evans owns the 260-acre Tenlane Farm near Versailles, Ky., directly across the road from his brother Tom's Trackside Farm. Evans began building Tenlane Farm, which currently houses 11 broodmares, around four years ago after moving to Kentucky from Palo Alto, Calif.
His Thoroughbred interests include a share in the Claiborne Farm stallion Strong Hope
and an interest in his dam, Shining Through (by Grand Slam
"I've owned about 50-60 horses in various partnerships through the years," Evans said. "My brother and I are basically in the commercial breeding business. Over the last five years I've started to get more serious about the business."