Barry Schwartz, CEO of the New York Racing Association.

Barry Schwartz, CEO of the New York Racing Association.

Barbara D. Livingston

Schwartz: Time to Relinquish Full-Time NYRA Post

The New York Racing Association's chief executive officer isn't willing to definitively say National Thoroughbred Racing Association commissioner Tim Smith will take over as president, but Barry Schwartz believes the time has come for him to step aside from his full-time NYRA post.

"The last couple years became much more than I bargained for," Schwartz told The Blood-Horse July 20.

Smith is expected to resign from the NTRA, where he has served as chief executive officer since 1998, and take over as NYRA's new president in September. NYRA and the NTRA have confirmed Smith is in negotiations for the job, but they said no decision has been made.

Schwartz declined to discuss the status of the talks with Smith other than to say, "I'm excited about it. Hopefully, he'll join us."

But Schwartz said he's looking forward to a change. Schwartz would remain what he described an activist chairman of the NYRA board, but Smith, if the deal is finalized, would take over Schwartz's CEO role.

Schwartz and his former business partner, Calvin Klein, in 2003 sold the clothing company they began in 1968 to Phillips-Van Heusen. At the time, Schwartz said he would be spending more time at NYRA. "I thought a couple of days a week," he said of his workweek at NYRA.

But NYRA's legal problems--the association was indicted last year for its role in financial fraud by employees and is now operating under the watchful eye of a court-appointed monitor--changed all that. Schwartz said NYRA became a seven-day-a-week job. Meanwhile, former NYRA president Terry Meyocks resigned after state officials criticized him.

"It became kind of overwhelming," Schwartz said of the demands at NYRA. "We need an executive who can commit himself 100% to NYRA, and I just couldn't commit to that."

Schwartz praised NYRA trustees Steven Duncker and Peter Karches for "stepping up to the plate" to help him run NYRA since Meyocks resigned. But Schwartz, a Thoroughbred owner, said his job has taken him away from the time he could spend on horse racing.

"I have no desire to be a full time CEO," said Schwartz, 62. "It wasn't intended to be that kind of position. A CEO in the true sense of the word is someone there six to seven days a week. When I sold my company, I thought you were supposed to retire."

Of Smith, he said: "When we sat down to figure out what we needed, I knew we needed a lot more than just a replacement for Terry. We needed someone who can take control of this organization and devote his entire time to it, and Tim would be that kind of guy."