Racecourse Media Group (RMG) has initiated an executive search to replace Chairman Roger Lewis, who will resign from duties leading its board at the end of the year.
A former BBC and ITV executive, Lewis has served on the RMG board since 2012 and was appointed chairman in 2019, leading the media rights organisation through the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Lewis’ departure is announced as RMG completes its objective to return racing media rights back to pre-COVID levels. £110 million is forecasted to be paid to shareholders for 2021 – above the £107 million distributed during 2019.
Positive 2021 results follow a hugely challenging 2020 when, due to the pandemic, RMG payments to racecourses fell by 25.9% on the previous year.
The media rights funding is expected to help UK racecourses return prize money back to pre-pandemic levels.
Lewis commented on the achievement: “I thank and congratulate everyone involved in racing for their herculean efforts in 2021. The RMG racecourses ensured that horseracing continued for a second year in the most demanding of circumstances, which allowed RMG to deliver as great a return as possible for racing.
“The RMG model was again tested in 2021 and again proved to be resilient and reliable.“
Taking charge of RMG governance in 2019, Lewis and Chief Executive Martin Stevenson were charged with renegotiating UK racing’s media rights package with broadcasters and stakeholders.
Last July, RMG announced that it had secured a five-year media rights extension, that would see 35 UK race tracks directly broadcast to LBOs, in addition to media rights extended for streaming (Watch & Bet), direct to home (DTH), terrestrial TV and international betting and non-betting partners until December 31, 2028.
“This was a pivotal moment for British racing. The RMG racecourses have created business clarity and confidence for years to come.” Lewis remarked.
“I pay particular tribute to the outstanding leadership of the RMG CEO, Martin Stevenson, who together with his great team of RMG executives navigated this complex and detailed process with rigour, patience and clear focus and who continue to lead the business with dynamism.”
The media rights renewal has provided British Racing a platform to expand its profile and coverage, as stakeholders aim to exceed 2021’s forecast payments of £110m for the year ahead.
Martin Stevenson, CEO of RMG, paid tribute to Lewis, saying: “I would like to pay tribute to Roger who, during his tenure as first Board member and then Chairman, has been instrumental in the development and success of RMG and its businesses over the last decade.”
“In particular, Roger has helped steer RMG through the pandemic, and all the huge challenges it presented, to the point where the business is now producing results, which were on a par with pre-covid payments to racecourses.
“That is a terrific outcome. I thank Roger for his leadership and friendship and for all that he has done for horse racing. We wish him all the best for the future once his tenure comes to its conclusion at the end of the year.”