MI Developments announced on May 27 that Ken Dunn will leave his position as Gulfstream Park president and general manager effective May 28. Dunn will serve as an advisor to Dennis Mills, vice-chairman and CEO of Aurora, Ont.-based MID.
“It was my decision,” Dunn told The Blood-Horse, adding that he does not plan to seek another full-time position in racing or in another industry.
Last Nov. 1, Magna Entertainment appointed Dunn to his positions at the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track--with a six-month contract that expired on April 30. He was Gulfstream’s fourth president since 2006.
MID on May 27 also announced that Steve Calabro, Gulfstream’s vice president of gaming operations, has been named interim general manager of the property--including the racing operations.
Dunn said he was unaware of any MID timetable for naming a new permanent Gulfstream president. The track will hold its 2011 race meet from Jan. 3 through April 24.
Before joining Gulfstream, Dunn had been president and general manager at Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Fla., from 1990 through April 2008. At Gulfstream, he succeeded Bill Murphy, who had been the track’s president/GM since early 2007.
In recent weeks, there had been considerable speculation over whether Dunn and MID would agree for him to remain at Gulfstream.
Some other recent events at MID led to that question.
On April 26, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., approved the Chapter 11 reorganization plan of Magna Entertainment, whose controlling shareholder is MID. The court approved transfer of ownership of Gulfstream, Santa Anita Park, three other Thoroughbred tracks and several other racing businesses from Magna to MID. Frank Stronach is chairman of Magna and of MID.
Since then, Ron Charles resigned as president of Santa Anita and MID ended a lease that allows the Oak Tree Racing Association to operate its annual fall meet at Santa Anita.
Dunn declined comment on the recent Magna and MID changes.
“I didn’t really work for Magna,” he said. He noted that he reported to Gregory Rayburn, who was the bankruptcy-court approved interim CEO for Magna.
Dunn, who is 63, said he decided to leave his Gulfstream post to spend more time with his family.
“I enjoyed this year’s race meet and my association with everyone at Gulfstream,” he said. “I decided I did not want to continue with the 11-hour days, six days a week.”
He added: “My decision was very well-received by Dennis. He asked if I would be an advisor to him personally, at his discretion if he wants to call on me about Gulfstream or other racing operations.”
In a statement, Mills said: “I would like to thank Ken for his commitment and professionalism while at Gulfstream Park. I am delighted Steve has accepted the challenge to lead Gulfstream Park, and am confident that he will complement our advisory team by building on Ken's good work at Gulfstream Park."
Dunn said he is proud that Gulfstream in 2010 “appears to be the only major track that from last fall to this spring showed an increase in handle.”
Gulfstream’s all-sources handle increased 4.2% from $528.8 million in 2009 to $550.9 million this year. Using a different data base that makes a direct comparison difficult, Gulfstream reported an increase in all-sources handle from 2008 to 2009.
“I cannot say anything bad about the job Ken Dunn did at Gulfstream,” said Sam Gordon, president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “But it appears that someone was not satisfied. I also had heard that he wanted to get out.”
“That’s the history of Magna, and the way things are going in racing,” Gordon said of the latest change in the top spot at Magna. He noted that Churchill Downs Inc. has made several top-level changes at Calder and other tracks in recent years.
“I hope they will bring in another person at Gulfstream who knows racing and has worked in it,” Gordon added. “I think it is a good move that they have given Steve Calabro more management duties. He is very talented, and has done a wonderful job.”
Under Calabro’s direction, Gulfstream increased its slot machine revenues by 6.7% from fiscal 2007-08 to fiscal 2008-09, according to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Gulfstream is on pace for another slots revenue increase for the current fiscal year, which will end on June 30.
Before joining Gulfstream, Calabro held management positions at Trump Entertainment Resorts and at Harrah’s Entertainment.