Tom Chiota, 70, who managed the daily operations of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. as its president for more than 30 years, died in the early morning of Aug. 29.
Chiota started with OBS in 1978, only four years after the sale company had been formed.
"OBS was a new company and those were lean years, but Tom is exactly what we needed," said Mike O'Farrell, owner of Ocala Stud and a longtime OBS board member.
During Chiota's tenure, the company grew and diversified. He oversaw continued improvements and expansion of the sales facilities southwest of Ocala, which began with six barns and now encompasses 29 barns and two racetracks. Chiota also oversaw the creation of the OBS Feed & Supply company, implementation of inter-track wagering housed in a new pavilion, and acquisition of the Ocala Jai-Alai fronton. Chiota retired from OBS in October 2011 but remained active at the company as a consultant.
"Norm Casse was the visionary and the board brought the ideas, but Tom Chiota made it happen," O'Farrell said. "He made sure things got done and got done correctly. Harry Mangurian (owner of Mockingbird Farm) was perhaps the best businessman I've ever known and he loved Tom Chiota. Tom ran a tight ship and was tough, but he was also fair."
"Tom Chiota's steady hand in a turbulent business was vital for the growth and success of OBS," added OBS president Tom Ventura. "It was an honor to work side by side with Tom for more than 20 years. His OBS family will miss his wit and wisdom. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his cherished family."
Visitation will be held 4-6 p.m. EDT Sept. 1 at Hires-Baxley Funeral Home, 910 E. Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala, Fla., with the funeral service to follow at 6 p.m. More details on the arrangements are forthcoming.