05/27/2010 12:00AM

Ken Dunn, Gulfstream part ways


Ken Dunn, the president of Gulfstream Park, informed officials of the track's parent company on Wednesday night that he was not renewing his employment contract, which had expired May 1, but that he would continue to serve as an advisor to the company's chief executive.

Dunn, 63, a former general manager of nearby Calder Race Course with 40 years experience in the racing industry, said Thursday he had no regrets about his brief tenure at Gulfstream and that the parting was amicable. Dunn was hired in November 2009 by Magna Entertainment, the bankrupt racing company that transferred all of its remaining racing assets to MI Developments, its former parent company and its largest creditor, at the end of April this year.

"I want to thank all of the employees and MI Developments, and I especially want to thank the owners, trainers, and jockeys who made the last meet such an enjoyable experience," Dunn said. "It was a privilege to work with them."

Dunn said he had come to the conclusion that he and MI Developments did not see eye-to-eye on aspects of Gulfstream's operations. When asked to explain that differences, Dunn said, "I no longer want to work 11-hour days, six days a week, and to be on call 24 hours a day."

Dunn said he agreed to advise MI Development's chief executive, Dennis Mills, on "any matter that he deemed important to Gulfstream Park" or any of the company's other racing operations.

Mills said late on Thursday that MI Developments accepted Dunn's decision with disappointment.

"It's not a very good day for me," Mills said. "I'm a big Ken Dunn guy. He's one of the most respected leaders in the racing industry."

Kent Stirling, the executive director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said he was disappointed that Dunn was no longer working at Gulfstream. Stirling had frequently credited Dunn for his work at Calder, where he was president from 1990 to 2008, when he was let go by Calder's owner, Churchill Downs Inc.

"The last two meets at Gulfstream have been as good as any racetrack in the country, the way the economy is going," Stirling said.

Caton Bredar, Gulfstream's executive producer of media development, said that Gulfstream's staff was informed of Dunn's decision on Wednesday night. Steve Calabro, Gulfstream's vice president of gaming, will take over managerial duties at the track until a replacement is found, Bredar said.

Dunn's departure follows several major shakeups at tracks owned by MI Developments over the past month.

Last week, Ron Charles, the president of Santa Anita Park in Southern California, resigned, following five years at the track. His resignation followed closely on the heels of a decision by MI Developments to void a lease with the Oak Tree Racing Association, a not-for-profit organization that has hosted a fall meet at Santa Anita since 1969.

In early May, MI Developments also walked away from a partnership with Churchill Downs Inc. on a simulcast-marketing venture, TrackNet. Officials for both companies said the decision was mutual.

MI Developments is under pressure from its shareholders to turn around Magna's former racing operations after Magna lost hundreds of millions of dollars on the properties. Because of the asset-transfer plan, Magna was dissolved, and its shareholders were wiped out. MI Developments is controlled by Frank Stronach, who also controlled Magna Entertainment.