KISS Bass Player Gene Simmons May be in Santa Anita’s Future
By Terry Miller
Mark Verge is the tenth CEO to resign under Stronach. -Photo by Terry Miller
Mark Verge, (who by all accounts prefered to be called ‘The Guy’ ) who was hired to oversee Santa Anita Park as chief executive officer in March, has left the building.
Verge was hired by Frank Stronach, chairman of the The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, to improve the track’s marketing and visibility. His resignation comes on the heels of the very successful 29th Breeders’ Cup World Championships held the first weekend in November.
According to Ray Paulick at Paulick Report.com, complete with a clever headline ‘KISS him Goodbye” had this to say: “A horse owner and close friend of 2012 Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, Verge drew criticism from the California Horse Racing Board at a July meeting for his planned marketing of the Santa Anita fall meet, much of which centered around O’Neill (including an O’Neill bobblehead giveaway), who served a lengthy suspension this summer for a medication violation.”
Paulick continued that “Verge then had a verbal altercation with the wife of trainer Bob Baffert at the post position draw for Del Mar’s Pacific Classic, days after Verge and partners bought the horse Richard’s Kid and moved him from Baffert to O’Neill’s barn. That altercation, insiders said, doomed Verge’s chances of making it past the fall meet as Santa Anita’s CEO.”
George Haines, the track’s longtime general manager, is expected to run Santa Anita and there is no word yet on whether Gene Simmons, KISS frontman will step up as has been widely reported and speculated.
Verge, a Los Angeles business entrepreneur and a Thoroughbred owner, said at the time he was hired that he owned about 20 businesses. Among them is Westside Rentals, numerous real estate and restaurant holdings. The blithe Verge came into the Santa Anita CEO position as a complete outsider promising to ‘shake things up ‘as he put it. It seems to have happened, somewhat. According to numerous sources including Thoroughbred Times “Several management and operations responsibilities at Santa Anita Park are being reorganized as part of an ongoing restructuring of management of the facility to gain operational efficiencies and to help position the landmark horse racing facility for future growth”
Mike Willman, Director of Publicity for the track confirmed Verge’s departure in an email to Beacon Media: “Yes. Verge has resigned as have Jimmy Dunne, Damien Lewis, Richard Stevenson and Audrie Stevenson.” However, there is no other statement from the track at this time.
Frank Stronach hired Verge to bring fresh ideas and a younger audience to Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, which in part he did with a successfu l 626 Asian Market night which was heavily promoted last month and saw record crowds in the infield which track officials hope would encourage the younger Asian professionals to visit the race track during racing season.
We attempted to get comments from the Stronach Group but were unsuccessful.