Willmot Retires as WEG Chairman

James Lawson has been elected chairman to take Willmot's place.

Woodbine Entertainment Group Aug. 1 announced the retirement of David S. Willmot as the company's chairman of the board. James Lawson has been elected chairman in his place.

Willmot was first elected to the WEG Board in 1984. He served as president and CEO from 1995 to 2010 and had held the role of chairman since 2001.

Willmot led the repositioning of WEG, a not-for-profit corporation, around the objective of operating a multi-dimensional entertainment business committed to maximizing financial performance in order to achieve a high quality of horse racing.

Under Willmot's leadership, the company invested approximately $385 million over the past 15 years to enhance its on-track and off-track customer experience and amenities, implement industry-leading new broadcasting and wagering technologies, and invest in its racetrack facilities and racing products.

During Willmot's tenure, wagering on Woodbine and Mohawk races across North America and around the world also grew significantly and Woodbine played host to both the Breeders' Cup and Breeders Crown Championships.

Beyond Willmot's leadership roles at WEG, he received numerous industry awards and also served on several boards including Breeders' Cup, International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities, Thoroughbred Racing Association, Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, The Jockey Club of Canada, and the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

"The board and management of WEG are fortunate to have benefited from David's vision and commitment to the success of our company and the unfailing passion and integrity which have characterized David's leadership," said Lawson in a release. "David oversaw the transformation of WEG into an internationally admired and respected horse racing and entertainment organization that is the pride of the Ontario horse racing industry." 

"I am very proud of what we have accomplished at WEG and I appreciate so much the assistance and support of our board members, management team, and all our employees over the years," said Willmot in a statement. "When I stepped down as CEO in the summer of 2010, the board requested that I stay on as executive chairman for a two-year period to ensure a smooth transition.

"With the successful completion of our management succession over that time and with Jim Lawson agreeing to take over the chairman's responsibilities, I am confident that WEG will continue to play a leading role in the Province's gaming strategy. I am therefore comfortable in retiring so that I may focus on my health, family, and other interests."