Meeker: New Churchill CEO Must Have Global View

The next chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc. must have an understanding of technology and the "globalization" of the pari-mutuel industry, current CEO and president Tom Meeker said.

A search for a replacement for Meeker, who earlier this year announced his intention to retire, is under way. Candidates from within CDI and outside of the company are being considered.

"The interview process has begun, but (the board of directors) hasn't clearly identified a candidate at this juncture," said Meeker, who will stay on with the company during the transition.

Meeker's employment contract expires in March 2007. Meeker may retire sooner in the event the succession-planning process yields a suitable candidate earlier.

Meeker said knowledge of the racing industry would be helpful for any candidate, but other things are more important.

"What skills you need in this job are not particularly unique to racing--good leadership skills, good communication skills, and good consensus-building skills," Meeker said during a recent meeting with members of the media. "You have to understand the dynamics of business in general."

Meeker said the "globalization" of racing is imminent, and the same issues that impact racing in the United States affect it in other countries.

"The CEO will have to have skill at understanding what's going on beyond the borders of the local marketplace," Meeker said. "An opportunity exists, and whoever takes the helm has to understand that dynamic even moreso than understanding racing in general. I came (to Churchill Downs) not understanding racing, but I understood what had to happen. I think that's more important than having a lifelong racing enthusiast (in the position)."

During Meeker's tenure, which began in 1984, the company went from having one track--Churchill Downs--to owning six others. CDI currently is working with Magna Entertainment Corp. on developing simulcast markets for U.S. racing in Europe.