C. Kenneth Dunn, who since April 1999 has served as senior vice president of Florida operations for Churchill Downs Inc. and has spent 18 years at Calder Race Course, is stepping down, the company announced April 9. Dunn will continue to serve as an adviser for Calder through Aug. 1.
The move comes as Calder gears up to install slot machines, which were approved in a Miami-Dade County referendum earlier this year. But during a recent CDI earnings conference, no details on the Calder expansion were revealed.
“We are transitioning Calder into a destination with horse racing and casino-style gaming, and have a need for management skills and leadership experience in both industries," CDI executive vice president Steve Sexton said in a statement. "Ken’s extensive racing experience has been tremendously valuable, and we have been fortunate to count him among our racetrack presidents these many years. He deserves our heartfelt thanks for his exceptional leadership and his many contributions to our senior management team.”
Dunn became president of Calder in 1990 and continued in that role after CDI acquired the racetrack in the spring of 1999. Prior to joining Calder’s management team, Dunn served in a variety of leadership and managerial positions at racetracks around the country, including Arlington Park, Fair Grounds, Atlantic City Race Course, and Hollywood Park.
“Since my career in horse racing began almost 40 years ago, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most talented and dedicated people in the industry at some of the country’s best racetracks,” Dunn said in a statement. “I have truly enjoyed my 18 years at Calder, and want to thank my co-workers, the horsemen, members of the Miami-Dade County business community, and our public officials at both the state and local level for their guidance, friendship, and support.
"I’m incredibly proud of everything we’ve accomplished together--both at Calder and throughout our community--and I want to wish my professional colleagues and extended family at Calder the very best as they begin this new chapter. I personally look forward to putting my many years of leadership experience to work in a new role, whether inside or outside the pari-mutuel industry.”
A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said that upon Dunn's termination of employment on Aug. 1, he would be entitled to: a completion bonus of $310,000, a severance payment of $125,117, company-paid COBRA continuation until Feb. 28, 2010, payment of $8,000 in lieu of outplacement assistance, accelerated vesting with respect to 5,480 shares of restricted stock, and a pro rata payment of the incentive compensation plan bonus in the amount of $58,388.
The agreement also carries non-competition and non-solicitation provisions. In particular, Dunn for two years cannot work in any capacity for Gulfstream Park, Hawthorne Race Course, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, the National HBPA, The Horsemen’s Group, or “any group representing horsemen’s interests at a particular track.”
In an April 8 interview with The Blood-Horse, Dunn talked about Calder’s plans for its 2008 meet but did not indicate he was preparing to leave CDI. Dunn said priorities at Calder this year include CDI’s ongoing studies on “where and how to put in slot machines” at Calder. Dunn signed his termination agreement April 7, according to SEC filings.
Dunn said CDI is waiting for the Florida legislature to act on a bill that would reduce the state tax rate on slots revenue at racetrack casinos in Miami-Dade County and Broward County. The bill would reduce that rate from the current 50% to 35% if a casino achieves pre-determined slots revenue.
The legislature will end its two-month session May 2.