NTRA, Breeders' Cup Strike Modified Operating Agreement

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup have struck a new joint operating agreement through at least 2008, ending speculation the two organizations could go their separate ways. In addition, they will have separate chief executive officers.

The boards of directors of the NTRA and Breeders' Cup announced the decision July 26 after two days of meetings in Lexington.

Under terms of the new agreement, the two organizations will continue to work jointly on television, marketing, public relations, and sponsorship initiatives, and continue to share offices and administrative functions. The organizations, however, will have separate budgeting and accounting functions and separate CEOs as was the case from 2001-04.

"We'll be tracking the budgets separately, but the boards determined it would be best to continue with the financial apparatus that's in place through this year," NTRA senior vice president of communications Keith Chamblin said in a follow-up interview. "It's still a joint budget; however, we are tracking organizational revenue and expenses separately as a way of making it easier to transition to separate budgets in 2007."

As for the different CEOs, Chamblin said the two boards would decide on their search processes.

"It was discussed, but no particular course of action was decided upon," Chamblin said.

Before Tim Smith departed in 2004, he headed the NTRA, and D.G. Van Clief Jr. was president of Breeders' Cup. When Smith resigned, Van Clief became NTRA commissioner and continued as Breeders' Cup president.

Van Clief announced his retirement from both positions earlier this year, and on July 1, Greg Avioli took over as interim CEO of both organizations and remains in that position.

"Both boards have worked diligently over the last few months on a formula that would optimize the working potential of the combined operation while recognizing and protecting the unique assets that each organization contributes," Avioli said in a statement.

"The two boards and various committees of those boards have worked tirelessly on behalf of the constituents they represent to finalize the details of this agreement," said Craig Fravel, chairman of the NTRA board of directors. "The NTRA looks forward to continuing to work with the Breeders' Cup to maximize opportunities to grow interest and awareness of Thoroughbred racing."

When the joint operating agreement took effect in 2001, the two organizations shared finances, with much of the funds coming from Breeders' Cup. Since last year, there has been a push for more financial accountability on the part of the NTRA; in early July, NTRA and Breeders' Cup announced a 40% cut in personnel and related expenses.

"Breeders' Cup has been and will continue to be our industry's strongest supporter of the NTRA," Breeders' Cup chairman Bill Farish said in the joint release. "We believe that the vast majority of our industry's common goals are best served by the combined enterprise of these two organizations."

The NTRA is currently seeking renewals from members. The process has hinged upon NTRA and Breeders' Cup deciding on the future of their joint structure.