Michael Neuman, who was hired in late February as the chief executive officer of Magna Entertainment Corp., is leaving the company, it was announced June 22.
A two-paragraph press release issued by MEC said that Neuman was leaving to pursue other opportunities. The release also said MEC chairman Frank Stronach will assume the title of interim CEO, a position he held for several months prior to the hiring of Neuman.
In Neuman's short tenure, he helped announce the formation of the controversial TrackNet Media Group, a joint content provider venture with Churchill Downs Inc.
A letter written by Neuman in April over the refurbishing of the barn area of MEC-owned Santa Anita Park in California became the center of some controversy. The letter, which originally was written to the city manager of Arcadia and later read at a May meeting of the California Horse Racing Board, reportedly said MEC would be unwilling to fund a renovation of the stable area.
Stronach then made a personal appearance at the June 19 meeting of the CHRB, making a pledge of $24 million that, in part, would be used to upgrade the Santa Anita barn area. During his presentation to the CHRB, he said that Neuman had "been very much reprimanded."
In the press release, Stronach is quoted as saying: "Michael worked very hard during his time at MEC and we wish him well in his future endeavors."
Neuman did not return a June 21 call from The Blood-Horse to MEC, with his assistant saying he was in a meeting. In the MEC press release, Neuman is quoted as saying, "I wish my colleagues at MEC well going forward and hope that the company will be successful in implementing its long-term plans."MEC has had at least five CEOs since it launched as a publicly-traded company in 2000, with Stronach filling in as interim CEO at times. The company's stock closed June 22 Nasdaq trading at $2.83, down 10.7%.
Stronach said in the press release that "MEC remains focused on implementing the strategic initiatives described at our recent annual meeting, including the sale of non-core assets to further reduce debt."