Mark Shapiro, the ESPN executive who was instrumental in moving the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships to his network in 2006, is leaving ESPN effective Oct. 1 to become chief executive officer of Red Zone, a private entertainment investment company founded by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
Shapiro, executive vice president of programming and production since 2002, has been with ESPN since 1993. A release on espn.com detailed his background but offered no details on whether he would be replaced.
Shapiro was selected as the keynote speaker for the Aug. 21 Jockey Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to discuss ESPN's plans for the Breeders' Cup broadcasts and Thoroughbred racing in general. The plan remains in place even though he is leaving the network, Jockey Club spokesman Bob Curran said Aug. 18.
When Breeders' Cup and ESPN announced their deal in late April, Shapiro said: "This is an exciting day for us, folks. The Breeders' Cup isn't only a property for us. We are fans of horse racing, and we air 130 hours of programming annually. The Breeders' Cup is an evolutionary step for us."
"We don't believe it will have any impact on the relationship between ESPN and horse racing in general," Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations for the NTRA, said of Shapiro's leaving. "We had a meeting with ESPN this past week that included Mark Shapiro and others, and they are fully engaged on every front as far as their commitment to using media access to promote the sport.
"It's more of a loss for ESPN than anyone."
The Breeders' Cup has been televised by NBC since its inception in 1984. ESPN and its affiliated networks are 80% owned by ABC, which last year struck a deal with the New York Racing Association to broadcast the grade I Belmont Stakes, third leg of the Visa Triple Crown, in 2006-07.