06/27/2006 11:00PM

Guild names new leaders


The Jockeys' Guild board of directors voted on Monday to hire Dwight Manley, a Los Angeles rare-coins dealer and sports agent, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the leader of the politically active Rainbow Push Coalition, to become the guild's national managers, guild officials and Manley said on Wednesday.

The decision to hire Manley and Jackson comes eight months after the guild fired its former chief executive, L. Wayne Gertmenian, who was hired in 2001 and fired last November after sharp criticism of his management decisions, his use of guild finances, and his decision, in 2002, to allow the guild's policy covering catastrophic injuries to lapse.

John Velazquez, the guild's chairman, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that the guild's board approved the decision to hire Manley and Jackson at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky., following a daylong meeting of the guild's membership. Velazquez, who spoke with Manley also on the line, declined to comment on the decision, saying that he needed to speak with the eight other board members before commenting further. On Tuesday, there were conflicting accounts of Manley's and Jackson's status. Angie Gimmel, a spokeswoman for the Guild, said that "no one has been hired."

At the meeting on Monday, both Manley and Jackson made private presentations to the guild's membership. After the presentations, Manley made an offer to the guild's board that Jackson be a co-manager.

Manley said Wednesday that attorneys were "finalizing" his employment contract with the guild, although he declined to provide details. Manley said that he would provide the guild with a loan to pay down the guild's debt; pay the salaries of additional guild employees, lawyers, and consultants from his own pocket; and collect no salary for himself until the guild's members receive "benefits commensurate with the risk they take every day."

"This is going to be a big investment on my part and other people's parts, so talking about what is to be divvied up or what expenses or profits there are, as far as I'm concerned, there are none," Manley said.

Manley, 40, is a self-made millionaire and coin collector. His initial business was built on the rare-coin trade, but he branched into sports agency in the 1990's by representing the professional basketball stars Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone. He has recently struck several recent real estate deals in the Los Angeles area.

Manley said Jackson, 64, would serve as a co-manager of the guild but that he would provide most of the guidance for the organization. Manley and Jackson met in 1995, Manley said, and have worked on several aid projects together, including one for hurricane victims.

The decision to hire Manley and Jackson has the potential to create friction among the guild's membership, according to jockeys and guild officials who had supported a second candidate, Dave Stevenson. These guild members said that Jackson and Manley had no experience in racing circles compared with Stevenson, a former jockey, racetrack official, and owner of a simulcast consultancy business. They also expressed concern that Manley and Jackson could return the guild to the confrontational path it had taken under Gertmenian, when the guild's relations with much of the racing industry reached historic lows.

Larry Saumell, a guild regional vice president, said that some dissident riders were contemplating the formation of an alternative organization to represent jockeys. But Saumell said that none of the riders was willing to speak out until more was known about how Manley and Jackson would manage the guild.

Saumell was highly critical of Manley's presentation on Monday, saying that it lacked details other than the general themes that jockeys deserved to have more benefits, that Manley would provide loans to pay down the guild's debt, and that he would work without a salary. The guild's balance sheet was left in a shambles as a result of Gertmenian's management. Saumell said that Stevenson's presentation was highly detailed and offered a realistic way for the guild to move forward.

"For the first time in a long time, someone came up with solutions about how to actually help us," Saumell said. "It was a way to go forward, with practical goals, not some pie-in-the-sky wish list."

Manley acknowledged Wednesday that he had no experience in the racing industry.

"The first thing I need to do is figure out what's what," Manley said. "No one has put that all together to date."

Manley said that a friend of his who is a horse owner in California convinced him to seek the guild job. The horse owner flew Manley to Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes on June 10, Manley said, and Manley spent part of the day visiting with riders in the jockeys' room. At those meetings, Manley told several jockeys that he was planning on bringing Jackson to the guild meeting this week.

Jackson is a social and political activist whose RainbowPush Coalition frequently rallies support for liberal causes, including those of labor.

On Tuesday night, Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, and Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, canceled a press conference planned for Wednesday morning to announce the introduction of legislation called the Jockeys' Insurance Fairness Act. Alex Haurek, a spokesman for Stupak, said on Wednesday that Whitfield's staff "was responsible for the decision to cancel the conference" and that any comment would have to come from Whitfield, whose office did not return a phone call on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, jockey Mike Luzzi said that he resigned from the guild's 27-member senate shortly after being reelected on Monday. Luzzi also cited some concern over the hiring of Manley and Jackson.

"I guess I'm old school, but I really thought that the guild was doing the right thing before Gertmenian came along," Luzzi said. "These guys want to go in a different direction, and I wish them luck."