Santa Anita Park promotions manager John Niedzweidz and President George Haines will take over for outgoing CEO Mark Verge — at least on a temporary basis — track spokesman Mike Willman said.
Verge, whom Santa Anita owner Frank Stronach hired in March in hopes of luring in a new generation to the track, resigned Thursday. Verge is the track's tenth executive since Stronach bought it in 1998.
Stronach could not be reached for comment. Meanwhile, Patch caught up with Verge just before he boarded a plane to the Bahamas with his wife, Lani.
Calling his stepping down "a win-win," Verge said his outside projects didn't allow him the time he needed to devote to the park.
"I just have a ton of work going on," he said. "It takes somebody to be there full-time...It was just getting too much."
Verge owns more than a dozen businesses, including a number of bars, restaurants and hotels. But his most well-known venture is Westside Rentals, a business he founded in 1995 that lists rental properties.
A number of people Verge hired have also stepped down. Those include Jimmy Dunne, Santa Anita’s Chief Creative Officer and the writer of the track's theme song,, “My California." Cedd Moses, a cocktail impresario in the Los Angeles area brought on as beverage consultant, is also leaving, and director of sponsorship Damien Lewis, among others.
Willman could not confirm whether KISS frontman Gene Simmons will be brought on-board as a marketing consultant or track executive. The Paulick Report, a national horse racing newsletter, reported Oct. 18 that Simmons had been engaged in high-level meetings concerning Santa Anita with Frank Stronach’s daughter, Belinda, and others from the corporate office of the Stronach Group.
Santa Anita Park opens its winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26.