Jockeys' Guild officials are optimistic the organization's finances will improve, but much hinges upon the resolution of lawsuits and payments by some jockeys for health insurance.
The new Guild senate held its first meeting June 26 in Louisville, Ky., which could become the organization's new home. As of early afternoon, no decision had been made on a move from Southern California, but the Galt House, where the meeting was held, has offered office space at a discounted price to the Guild.
A representative of the hotel said rental of an office on the 18th floor of one of the Galt House towers would cost $8.50 per square foot, or about $1,700 a month.
Angie Gimmel, who handles public information for the Guild, said there is "very, very strong support" among members for a move to Louisville. "They were overwhelmed by the support they got here."
A morning discussion on finances was closed to the press, but afterward, Donald Gridiron, the Guild's chief financial officer, said he's in the process of assessing the situation, which is impacted by lawsuits against and by Matrix Capital Associates, the Guild's previous management team.
"It's probably one of my largest challenges," said Gridiron, a Pomona, Calif.-based certified public accountant who assists non-profit organizations. "I've never had one that has such an unbalance. What needs to happen is we have to make sure we have a business mindset and stick to the plan we put together."
Darrell Haire, interim national manager of the Guild, said the organization is encouraging members to pay their premiums for family health insurance. Some jockeys have decided not to pay because of a lingering lack of trust given the Guild's previous regime; about 70 of them were cut off because they hadn't paid.
To generate revenue, the Guild raised its per-mount fee from $3 to $4 to help pay family health insurance premiums, which cost about $690 a month. A new rules committee was established to reach out to those who were behind in their payments.
Also, some of the racetracks that cut off media rights payments last year under the old regime are making payments again. Before the fallout, the Guild received about $2.2 million a year from Thoroughbred Racing Associations-member racetracks.
"The issue is not debt but receivables that need to be collected," Gridiron said. "Receivables are slow in being paid. Some (jockeys and racetracks) won't pay because of trust issues. We're trying to build confidence in the organization. I still get calls from people wanting to cuss me out."
Gimmel said June 27 the board of directors had made no decision on hiring a permanent national manager. The candidates are sports agent Dwight Manley and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who would be co-managers under their plan, and the industry consulting firm Stevenson and Associates, headed by former jockey Dave Stevenson.
Gimmel said a decision could come the week of June 26, but Guild senators planned to take their time to get feedback from members. "They're in no hurry to make a decision," she said.