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Minister steps in to stop Racing Victoria rot

Tue, Dec 20, 5:10pm by Senior Writer

The turmoil which has engulfed the Victorian racing industry in recent years has prompted state government intervention, with the Racing Minister ordering the appointment of independent directors to the Racing Victoria board.

Racing Victoria, which oversees all racing in Victoria, including the famous Melbourne spring racing carnival, is in complete disarray after two chairmen in 18 months stepped down in dubious circumstances.

Rob Roulston stepped down in June 2015 over a nomination irregularity involving his work as a bloodstock agent. He was replaced by David Moodie, one of Victoria’s most successful owners, who has since resigned following an inquiry over his involvement in the leaking of information about positive cobalt tests to three big-name trainers.

It has left RV without a permanent chairman throughout the spring carnival while the investigation into Moodie was conducted and the leadership void will now continue until at least February after Moodie’s decision last week to resign from the board and his position.

What has compounded the situation is the lack of a chairman has caused major delays in Racing Victoria replacing its CEO Bernard Saundry, who finishes at the end of this week

Several candidates have reportedly turned down the CEO role because of the political bunfight racing is currently embroiled in and because they do not know who they will be reporting to.

Having watched on as two chairman were sent packing on the basis of conflict of interests, Racing Minister Martin Pakula has acted, demanding legislative change which will implement a requirement to find independent board members with a focus on removing those with clear conflicts between their role on the board and their other responsibilities.

“Racing is an industry which employs tens of thousands of Victorians and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” Pakula said.

“It’s vital that an industry of such importance has a modern and independent governance structure to match.”

“It is no longer appropriate for the Board of Racing Victoria to be chosen by the people and organisations that it regulates.”

On top of the current executive troubles, Victorian racing has been involved in a two-year long saga over cobalt charges against several leading trainers. The fallout from that has led to major integrity issues raised, prolonged court cases and the retirement of champion trainer Peter Moody, who prepared unbeaten superstar Black Caviar.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Racing Club, which runs the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the racing industry’s great one-week cash cow, is also without a chairman after Michael Burn resigned last week.

Burn is heading up a Macquarie Bank-led consortium in their bid to secure the Tatts Group. He identified that his role in that takeover bid, which could thwart Tabcorp’s merger with tatts, represented a conflict with his role at the VRC, so has duly stepped down.

He has been replaced by interim chairman Amanda Elliott.

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