Richard FitzGerald has stepped down as chief executive of Racecourse Media Group, the media and data rights holding company for 34 British racecourses, after nearly 12 years in the position.
FitzGerald joined RMG in September 2008, having previously served as chief executive of Premier League football club Aston Villa until February of that year. In the interim period between the two roles he worked as a consultant to the owners of Manchester City.
RMG said FitzGerald will be stepping down gradually over the course of the next six weeks, with finance director Martin Stevenson to become acting chief executive.
FitzGerald’s departure from RMG was announced on Wednesday evening, just a day after UK commercial broadcaster ITV renewed its exclusive free-to-air broadcast rights deal for British horse-racing events until 2023 after protracted negotiations.
The three-year deal, which starts in 2021, was agreed with rights-holders RMG, Ascot and Arena Racing Company. ITV will reportedly pay between £8m (€8.7m/$10.3m) and £9m per year for the rights, up from the £7.5m per year it pays in its current deal for the 2017-20 cycle.
Roger Lewis, chairman of RMG, said: “During this period RMG has produced great returns for our racecourses, generating over £800m of licence fees during his tenure of office.
“The recent renewal of the RMG contract with ITV until 2023, the successful launch of our new Watch & Bet Service in June, and ensuring RMG is fully operational following the Covid-19 outbreak and so generating significant revenues for our racecourses, has created the right moment for Richard to announce his decision to step down.
“The achievements of RMG, which have driven its financial performance with Richard as CEO are significant, and include a ground-breaking data licensing and production service, an innovative LBO (Licensed Betting Office) deal with SIS, the securing of the rights to Irish racing, the rebrand and launch of Racing TV, enhancing its HD service, and the expansion of RMG opportunities across the world.
“Richard leaves RMG with our sincerest thanks and best wishes for having delivered an outstanding performance over a considerable period of time.”
Prior to Aston Villa, FitzGerald worked for 18 years in various senior roles at the IMG agency. They included chief operating officer and head of new media of TWI, a producer and distributor of sports television programmes.
He also sat on a number of joint venture boards including European Tour Productions, Manchester United Interactive and Sports News TV.
FitzGerald added: “The business has flourished and delivered on the vision of the founding shareholders around a collective approach to commercialising their media and data rights.
“There is never a good time to step down but with resumption of racing, the new Watch & Bet deals, the terrestrial TV renewal and launch in Italy of fixed odds, and a new cycle of renewals starting shortly, it seems the right time to step down.”