The unexpected decision by Marje Everett to relinquish power as Hollywood Park’s chief executive came as a surprise to everyone but her closest advisers. Why would Everett, considered a tough battler who has a convincing record for not being stopped, suddenly give up and take a less active role at her track?
Given Everett’s history, it doesn’t make sense.
The principals in the fight to gain control of Hollywood Park say the predictable. Everett says it’s being done for the well being of the stockholders and that she looks forward to a long association with Steve Wynn, her hand-picked successor. R.D. Hubbard, the race track owner that is trying to unseat her, hints that Everett would still control the track, but from another position.
But in making the move, Everett shows that she fully understands the precarious nature of her position. She hasn’t given up, but instead is trying to maximize the chance that her side will win.
There was still a slim chance that Everett could emerge as the winner at the stockholders’ meeting Feb. 18. But that was an all-or-nothing proposition. If she loses, she’s out.
But by resigning as chief executive officer and becoming merely a board member, she increases the chance that she can stick around. Her side has a better chance of winning if she isn’t the main target.
In short, Everett was playing it safe.
She was choosing being at Hollywood Park in a lesser capacity over not being there at all. She realized that the less of a role she plays, the more likely her chance of success.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, the battle to control the track had, in the minds of most, been focused on one issue. Should Everett stay or should she be thrown out? It was Everett who commanded the attention, and Hubbard’s ability to run the track was not a major point.
But by stepping aside, Everett has redefined the fight. The main issue will probably shift to which candidate is more qualified to run Hollywood Park--Hubbard or Wynn. Everett is seemingly no longer the issue.
It was a well-calculated move by a group that clearly saw an uphill battle.
At some point, the California Horse Racing Board might be brought into the picture to help determine the qualifications of two out-of-state interests. Normally, the CHRB is not known for its thorough background checks and aggressive pursuit of truth. When it has tried, it usually has resulted in chaos.
It has been suggested that Wynn, owner of the Mirage and Golden Nugget hotels in Las Vegas, would serve as a puppet for Everett. But those who know Wynn suggest that wouldn’t be the case. He has a reputation for being a strong-willed executive who isn’t subject to puppet regimes.
However, Wynn doesn’t have a racing background. So, when it comes to questions of the equine type, where is he most likely to turn?
One could only speculate.
The fight will continue for another month and the mud-slinging is only beginning. You can expect both sides to develop new, but slightly familiar, strategies.
Hubbard will probably try to insinuate that Everett’s--and now Wynn’s--board of directors was responsible for the failings of Hollywood Park. There will also be a thorough investigation of Wynn.
Everett will try to attack the integrity of Hubbard. Recent mailings and a newspaper advertisement have tried to link Hubbard to Emprise, a company that was known to have ties to organized crime in the 1970s.
One can only be sure of one thing: By the time the stockholders meet Feb. 18, there should be a lot of mud on the floor--and none of it will have come from a wet racing surface.