Robert Evans, the former CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated, will retire from his position as the company’s executive chairman later this year, the company announced on Tuesday. He will remain non-executive chairman of the board of directors.
Evans, who will depart CDI management Sept. 30, began his tenure atop the company in 2006. He started the transition out of senior management in August 2014, when William C. Carstanjen was named CEO.
CDI grew dramatically on Evans’ watch, driving more than $1.7 billion in new shareholder value and increasing profits 400 percent, the company said.
CDI announced it was acquiring Big Fish Games, an online gaming company, for $885 million late last year. That move, which produced record revenues for the company during the first quarter of 2015, also signaled a shift in strategy for CDI. As IL reported earlier this year, racing has fallen to No. 4 among the company’s revenue generators. Online gaming and casinos now generate the vast majority of CDI’s income.
“While I am extremely proud of what the CDI teams at all of our locations have accomplished, I’m even more excited about what they can achieve in the future,” Evans said in a statement. “CDI is today a far more diversified company with much greater organic growth potential, with strong free cash flow and a conservative amount of debt. Most importantly, the CDI organization is stronger, with much broader and deeper capabilities, notably in the use of technology. These are the key ingredients for future success, and I trust CDI’s best years will be the years ahead.”
Under Evans, the company made major new investments in the events surrounding Derby Week in an effort to squeeze more revenue from the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. It also began night racing, in part to try to generate more interest in horse racing among a younger set. And it acquired all or part of eight casinos in seven states.
In total, CDI invested some $1.8 billion in those initiatives and Big Fish.