03/08/2011 3:20PM

Breeders' Cup CEO opening draws interest

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Breeders’ Cup Ltd. has received “at least 40” inquiries to fill the organization’s chief executive position, just days after the resignation of former chief Greg Avioli, according to the board member who was appointed chairman of a search committee.

Tom Ludt, a Breeders’ Cup board member and the general manager of Vinery, said the response to the open position has been overwhelming since Avioli informed the board Friday that he was resigning to take a position overseeing the racing assets of MI Developments. The board appointed Ludt as chairman of the five-member search committee Monday.

“It will be a couple of weeks before we can finish filtering through all the candidates and start doing interviews,” Ludt said. “In a way, it’s a great challenge and a luxury, because with this many inquiries, we have a lot of options.”

Avioli was appointed chief executive in 2006 after a search firm hired by Breeders’ Cup identified him as the best candidate. At the time, Avioli was the organization’s interim chief executive.

Ludt said that the board plans to meet Wednesday or Thursday to determine whether the organization will again hire a search firm to identify the best candidates. Search firms typically charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for the type of position that is open at the Breeders’ Cup.

According to tax records, Avioli received total compensation of approximately $832,000 in 2007, the latest year in which the returns are available.

“I think we probably will hire a search firm,” Ludt said. “We talked about it yesterday. There are pros and cons, but they certainly could expedite the filtering. But they also cost money, and that’s not a small thing.”

Ludt said that the board has not determined the criteria it will use to rank candidates for the position. Members of the committee were asked Monday to draw up their criteria over the next week, Ludt said.

“We’re not just going to look internally or inside the racing industry,” Ludt said. “We’ll also be looking outside of the racing industry.”

The Breeders’ Cup is scheduled this year for Nov. 4-5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Churchill also was the host in 2010.

Ludt said that Breeders’ Cup is hoping to expedite the process to name a chief executive in the hopes of having the position filled well before detailed planning begins for this year’s event in the summer. But he also said that the organization’s interim co-chief executives – chief operating officer Matt Lutz and vice president of sales Carter Carnegie – have enough experience to oversee the organization’s day-to-day operations, regardless of how long the process takes.

“We’re going to do this as quick as we can, but we’re not going to sacrifice thoroughness just to get it done,” Ludt said.