Walt Robertson’s retirement from the Thoroughbred auction business didn’t last long. He’ll go back to work Jan. 5 at Keeneland in the newly created position of vice president of sales after leaving its biggest rival, Fasig-Tipton, in early November.
Robertson, 62, worked at Fasig-Tipton for more than 30 years. When he retired, he was that company’s senior auctioneer and he also served as the chairman of its advisory board of directors.
Robertson talked to The Blood-Horse about his new job Jan. 4 after it was announced he would be joining Keeneland’s management team. He said he didn't receive an offer from Keeneland until after his retirement from Fasig-Tipton.
BH: How did the job with Keeneland come about?
WR: “(Keeneland president and CEO) Nick Nicholson and I have been friends for 40 years. We’ve always had casual conversations about how maybe, someday, we would work together. After this (the retirement from Fasig-Tipton) came about, I met with him the day after Thanksgiving. We sat down and had a long, meaningful conversation. Then I met with the (Keeneland) trustees and they presented me with a really exciting offer and I was excited to accept it. There is a whole lot that’s right with Keeneland and I hope I can contribute.”
BH: What will be your role at Keeneland?
WR: "I’m going to be vice president of sales and that’s just what it implies. I will be the head of the horse auctions. I will report to Nick and I will be the boss (as far as sales go).”
BH: What are your plans for Keeneland’s auctions?
WR: “I haven’t even been to work yet. I’ve got to look at a lot of things. I know a lot of people over there, and I’m crazy about them. They have done an awfully good job and I’m looking forward to working with them. But I still need to meet a lot of other people and get this thing figured out. If you treat people right, good things are going to happen.”
BH: Will you work in the auction stand at Keeneland?
WR: “Probably not the few first sales, but you’ll probably see me (there) sometime later, yes.”
BH: Do you are think there are any changes that Keeneland needs to make?
WR: “It’s too early to answer that question, of course it is. Let’s evaluate everything and see how it comes about.”
BH: Are you surprised that you are returning to the Thoroughbred auction business this quickly following your retirement?
WR: “I don’t know that surprised is the right word. I kept my options open. It’s a dream job and it’s come my way. I can’t say that I hoped to get it, but I’m sure glad to have it.”
BH: Will you feel strange working for Keeneland, after working for its biggest rival?
WR: “I don’t know whether strange is a good word, but it (the Keeneland position) will be new and exciting. I’m ready to get started. I’m honored to have this position and look forward to it. I’m going to work hard and make this a better place, hopefully.”