Mark Verge

Mark Verge

Benoit Photo

Verge Out as CEO at Santa Anita

Los Angeles business entrepreneur steps down a week after track hosts Breeders' Cup.

Mark Verge, hired to oversee Santa Anita Park as chief executive officer in March, has stepped down.

Mike Willman, the track's director of publicity, said Nov. 9 that he was informed of Verge's decision during a meeting of Santa Anita department heads a day earlier.

"He's gone," Willman said.

Verge was hired by Frank Stronach, chairman of the The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, to improve the track's marketing and visibility. His resignation comes one week after Santa Anita hosted the 29th Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 2-3.

"What we were told was that this job was pretty much all-consuming and he (Verge) just had too many other things going on to continue doing it," Willman said.

Willman said he had no information on a rumor that Gene Simmons, front man for the band Kiss, is in line to replace Verge. Simmons, through another company, previously helped market an energy drink launched by Stronach that failed as a commercial enterprise.

Verge, a Los Angeles business entrepreneur and a Thoroughbred owner, said at the time he was hired that he owns about 20 businesses. Among them is Westside Rentals, the largest apartment and home finding service in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

A phone message left for Verge was not immediately returned. A Twitter report on the morning of Nov. 9 from Liz Mullen, a reporter for Sports Business Journal, quoted Verge as saying, “I am no longer with Santa Anita...It was a great ride.”

Verge's racing ownership group, affiliated with longtime friend and trainer Doug O'Neill, is called Verge was part of a group that acquired the multiple grade I winner Richard's Kid  a week prior to this year's TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I). The episode became infamous in Southern California racing circles when he traded insults with Jill Baffert, the wife of trainer Bob Baffert, who had previously trained Richard's Kid, during the post position draw party for the Pacific Classic a few days later.

The free-wheeling Verge came into the Santa Anita CEO position as a complete outsider promising to "shake things up."

He resisted accepting a formal title at Santa Anita and preferred to be known as "The Guy."

"We've got a great game but we've got to put entertainment back in the business. We've got to get racing back in the mainstream. That's what I want to do," Verge said at the time.

Verge took over as CEO for George Haines, who retained his position as Santa Anita's general manager and is responsible for the track's day-to-day operation.

During the 24-day autumn meet that concluded Nov. 4, Santa Anita reported that overall handle was up by 2% while attendance at the Arcadia track improved by 1 %, excluding the two-day Breeders' Cup totals.