Horse owner Mark Verge, a Los Angeles business entrepreneur and author of a marital advice book, has been named chief executive officer for track owner The Stronach Group.
The free-wheeling Verge, 44, said he's anxious to get started. He is planning to be introduced as the new CEO for The Stronach Group at a St. Patrick's Day celebration at his popular bar, Casey’s Irish Pub in downtown Los Angeles, where he's expecting a crowd of 20,000. He said that during the festivities he'll give a patron a voucher for a $1,000 wager on the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
Verge, who owns about 20 Los Angeles-area businesses, said it's time for the sport of horse racing to "shake things up."
"I think this is going to be fun," he said of his new position, which he promised would be a "wild ride."
"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," he said.
The news of Verge's appointment, first reported by Daily Racing Form March 15, came a day after Greg Avioli announced he was leaving The Stronach Group after one year to pursue outside interests.
Among Verge's business interests is Westside Rentals, the largest apartment and home finding service in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
His racing ownership group, affiliated with longtime friend and trainer Doug O'Neill, is called westsideracing.com. Verge was a part owner of Maryfield, winner of the Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) and the inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, both in 2007.
Verge is expected to take over many of the responsibilities previously handled by Avioli. Verge said his duties include overseeing all operations of Santa Anita, where he will be based. The Stronach Group also owns Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, and Maryland tracks Laurel Park and Pimlico, as well as a casino at Gulfstream, the advance deposit wagering firm XpressBet, and racing and sport horse network HRTV.
"Frank (Stronach) made me an offer and I thought, 'Let's do it,' " Verge said. "He said I could have any title I want. So I decided that I'll be 'The Guy.' "
Verge authored a marriage-help guide, “Access to the Boy’s Club,” which explores why men cheat on their wives and offers tips on fidelity.