Resignations put horse racing sector problems in the spotlight
Two CEO resignations — those of Rian du Plessis at Phumelela Gaming & Leisure and Lyndon Barends at the National Horseracing Authority (NHA) — have thrown the spotlight back on horse racing only months after the Markus Jooste saga.
In a statement, Phumelela stated that Du Plessis stood down for "personal reasons".
His position will be taken by John Stuart, the company’s international executive director. Stuart, who began his business career with KPMG, immediately has a lot on his plate, with grooms’ action regarding wages turning violent in the Eastern Cape. And he will do the presentation of Phumelela’s financial results on October 5.
With the share price having dropped 32% from its 52-week high of R19.90, shareholders will be keeping their fingers crossed for some positive news.
At 1pm on Wednesday Phumelela shares were trading at R13.40.
Du Plessis has given an assurance that he will not consider disposing of any Phumelela shares held directly or indirectly by him or his family in the foreseeable future.
The statement said: "With 39 years of experience in the horse racing and gaming industry, the board welcomes Stuart’s increased participation in the business and looks forward to his ongoing participation".
Stuart is director of Premier Gateway International and he will presumably be in Singapore next Tuesday when the company hosts an International Jockeys Challenge, including a four-strong team representing SA.
The Sporting Post reported on Wednesday that stables were attacked at Fairview racecourse near Port Elizabeth and stones were thrown at horses being taken to the tracks. They were returned to their stables.
Fairview, one of five racecourses run by Phumelela, is scheduled to hold a race meeting on Thursday.
After being appointed CEO of the NHA in March 2016, Barends has also resigned his position for personal reasons.
Long-standing breeder Marianne Thomson posted in the Sporting Post that "now that Mr Barends has fallen on his sword, the NHA board must not think they are free and clear".
"We have no reply yet as to whether they were complicit or negligent at the time of Mr Barends’s appointment.
"We have no explanation as to how and why Mr Barends was allowed to clear the NHA and the Stud Book in particular of experienced staff when he himself was brought in from outside the industry.
"If the Stud Book does not work, there is a knock-on effect to the industry that is incalculable," said Thomson.
• The meeting scheduled to be held on Thursday at the Vaal Classic track has been moved to Turffontein, along with the meeting scheduled for Thursday September 27.
An inspection panel walked the potholed and unmaintained track on Monday and the conclusion was reached that to allow meetings to go ahead could possibly "set back the Classic track for months".