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‘Task Team Is Focussed On Phumelela Issues’

Opportunity to clarify the role


26 March 2020 – the last race this year – Grindelwald wins at Vaal (Pic – JC Photos)

South African racing is undergoing a sea change of note in 2020.

We haven’t lifted a local formguide in anger since 26 March.

The NHA management have not worked this hard since the days of handwritten Stipes reports.

Phumelela folded like a reluctant pacemaker under a punishing ride last Friday.

And we were introduced to a business rescue specialist, and a five man ‘restructuring team’, on the same crazy afternoon.

Most of us have got our heads around business rescue and John Evans, while seemingly, and understandably, media shy, sounds like he knows what he is doing.

And the word is that he is wielding the axe and restoring a semblance of order at Turffontein.

The Racing Restructuring Team remains a grey area, for many. It has been referred to at various times by different names – including the Phumelela Restructing Team.

So what is it and what is their function?

An editorial published today by the Sporting Post, taken straight from the Cape Thoroughbred Sales website, stated that the team is ‘tasked with safeguarding, re-capitalising, and restructuring the racing industry’.

Read more here

The editorial states that the team of Wehahn Smith, Brian Riley, Charles Savage, Mike de Kock and David Abery  ‘have offered their skills as they are fully aligned and committed to the objectives of rebuilding the industry’.

Kenilworth Racing Chairman Robert Bloomberg (pictured) has suggested that, for the sake of clarity, we should point out that the appointed Task Team (“TT”) actually emanated from a Structuring Committee (“SC”) consisting of the Chairmen and CEO’s of the Operators, Racing Association, National Horseracing Authority and the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust, together with a few other directors from the same bodies.

“It is disingenuous to say that the TT has been tasked with ‘safeguarding, re-capitalising and restructuring the racing industry.’ The TT is currently representing Mary Oppenheimer Daughters (Pty) Ltd (MOD) and as such is strictly focused on the Phumelela issues. The TT is not dealing with Kenilworth Racing (“KR”), Gold Circle (“GC”) or any restructuring relating hereto which is presently being dealt with by the balance of the Structuring Committee and the respective boards of KR and GC, albeit that this may change in due course,” concluded Mr Bloomberg.

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10 comments on “‘Task Team Is Focussed On Phumelela Issues’


    The roles & actions of the current & past racing administrators of Gold Circle, Kenilworth Racing, Phumelela & the Racing Association have been & are perfunctory.

  2. Loren D says:

    Thank you to Sporting Post and Mr Robert Bloomberg for showing us that this Racing Restructuring Team can’t be trusted. How dare the RRT say that they are ‘tasked with safeguarding, re-capitalising, and restructuring the racing industry’ when they are not? It sounds a lot worse when we are told that the RTT is doing this for free, gratis, nothing, zero, and nought – all for one of the richest private companies in South Africa that could buy a small european country, with its wealth.

  3. Noel says:

    It is time that all three companies put there differences aside Mr Bloomberg and there own personal financials gains, and form one company with no dividends being paid out to greedy shareholders. Profits should be put back into racing to better our courses and increase stakes and insure that our racing begins to meet international standards ( all the way from our stripes to our merit ratings) or the industry will not dig itself out if this terrible hole.

  4. Gerh says:

    This is not a task team it is a masked team. We do not know which face they have on when they talk.

  5. Noel says:

    @Loren D , my opinion is that I think before everyone gets themselves all worked up over our restructuring team you need to understand that the RTT are appointed to insure that there is restructuring in the industry by working closely with the business rescue practitioner. Therefore there sole function is to assist in saving our industry, that was run into the ground by phumelela. We have had the oppenheimer’s put forward a 100 million rand of there personal money to save our industry. Would you have rather had the current incompetant management of phumelela get access to that money, or would you have the RTT work closely with the business rescue practitioner to find a solution that benefits the industry. If they cant find a beneficial solution with the business rescue practitioner, do you really think they are going to allow MOD to invest that money or more to bail our industry out of the financial ruin they are currently in. Without that money and a suitable solution our industry will never recover from the financial ruin that phumelela put us in and therefore our industry will die. Before individuals start criticizing, I think we should all allow these highly successful business individuals the opportunity to actually find a solution with John evans and then we can judge them. Just my opinion

  6. SAGA says:

    I think Mr Bloomberg is correct and we believe that, Team is already appointed is very questionable because.

    1. Who appointed that Team?

    2. Which protocol for that Team?

    3. That Team is going to reshuffling only for the befits of Phumelela only not for the whole Industry?

    The reason why support the views of Mr Bloomberg, it’s because all the Stakeholders should be represented on that Team as Mr Bloomberg mentioned.

    Furthermore our believe is that, if other stakeholders are not invited, that is a waist of time for that Team because is going to be objected by other stakeholders no matter what.

  7. Malik.zn says:

    Mr Editor, when reviewing my comment please look at it from my perspective, I have been involved in racing for 25 years and a former employee of Phumelela, I am sharing this with abbreviations of people so that it does not create a problem. If you feel its not worthy to be published then I understand.

    The task team put together are all well known racing administrators, what is very important in putting together a business plan is to understand what Phumelela and Gold Circle and KR racing are about. The candidate that needs to be the CEO has to be :

    1. A person of colour – this will enable smoother talks with government and transformation in an industry that has been white dominated for to long. It also will show the people (punters, employee’s, stakeholders, service providers) that there is a new leaf (not Michael Leaf) and the commitment of the board of directors is to ensure that horseracing is set to be in a better place,
    2. The new CEO has to be from racing (not and administrator or a breeder or trainer) a person who has been involved in operations, racing, marketing, finance, HR. This will be fundamental as a CEO does not just worry about racing, he needs to be a person that puts a team together to meet the challenges ahead and to ensure that the business plan in place is worked towards.
    3. The right person will have to look at the business from bottom (tote) up (executives) as he will be accountable for the organization that makes racing better for all. He will have to hand pick a team of executives:
    3.1 Legal and Compliance – to ensure that the company looks after its interests and not waste money on stupid legal matters. This requires a qualified attorney to make sure that all corners of the company are protected and any loopholes need to be raised, there should never be a stop gap or short term fix, we all know that Phumelela spent millions on legal fee’s because they were lead down the wrong path (this postion will line up alongside the CEO as crucial decisions will be made)

    3.2 Operations/Commercial – A person who will put a team of Area managers and administrators together who will be accountable for racecourse and off course betting outlets. There will have to be a person who knows racing and WHAT THE PUNTER WANTS!!!!! for far to long the people in these postions care less about what goes on, tv’s not working, staff not trained, staff don’t care, and the PUNTERS SUFFER. There was a time when the previous CEO brought in a operations executive from edcon (Mr N) the guy had no clue about racing and had to be taught what a quartet and p6 was. He didn’t know how to take a treble at the bookmaker but the CEO wanted a new direction for the business – now MR N came in and wanted to put in fancy perfumes in the ladies toilets at Turffontein to bring more ladies to the track. In the middle of a dump site that stinks so bad that you can’t have your lunch on the deck and this MR N wanted perfume in the bathrooms. Mr N and MR W (no longer with the RA) were instrumental in bringing in the boxing bet costing the company hundreds of thousands because they thought it would do very well. Mr N was proud to have pools of R20 000 but he was seeding R10 000 of the pool but as they say he was incharge. Mr N and Mr S put together the futsal deal and that went south after wasting millions. Clear to say Betting world failed and the tote failed because they needed to do the supabets deal. The new CEO coming in will need an operations executive who is strong in racing, communicate with punters big and small, visit branches to ensure area managers are doing their work and compensate them based on increase of turnover. There are good people out there, the process of hiring them needs to be fair.

    3.3 HR executive – you need a person that can be there for the employee’s all the time not just when there is a strike or when there are problems. The HR department needs to have road shows to promote good positive culture. All employee’s must be qualified in every department, there should not be a case of they can’t get the job because they white, indian African or coloured, positions must be filled based on getting the job done.

    3.4 Racing executive, a peoples person is required, someone who has monthly meetings with trainers, grooms, jockeys just to touch base on how to improve. Current problem is there are to many secrets and to many people who don’t know what they doing. The previous CEO of Phumelela also brought in MR P from the UK to take over racing executive, but there were so many better people in SA to take the roll. People who know how to foster a winning approach. Again it was an appointment to fill in a favour for a buddy.

    3.5 Marketing executive – its no secret that a so called MR S had his girlfriend head up the marketing department on a contract for 2 years (and his excuse was he could not find the right person to fill the position) now here is a position that is critical for racing to flourish. The marketing division needs to market racing to the people, they need to have roadshows, competitions, MVG members, learnership programs, talks in schools and varsities. They need to be the voice behind racing, every racemeeting be walking in the public, talk to punters, be in the parade ring interview trainers, show punters what racing is about but more importantly create a vibe to bring in new people. The current crop of marketing in all 3 operators is terrible. They focus on Prawns and rice (the young people today need more than prawns and rice) millions go into advertising the Durban July (anyone who is anyone knows when the July is) money should be spent weekly to introduce new people to the excitement of racing, and not like what Mr Bowmen did a few years ago, he created a syndicate of all whites and bought horses and brought them to the races. The new young generation want more, they want a destination to relax, have music, eat , drink party safe parking and the horse racing is the add on, now Mr Jaoa had a good idea with breakfast meetings, quickfire 7 races and people will enjoy then you got the Friday nite racing, imagine Gold Circles rooftop having 3 top restaurants like a Ocean basket, Olive and Oil and Cubana or something of that sort. Your racecourse becomes a destination 7 days a week and this is where your marketing team comes in, they work hard to sell racing to all the people that come to these restaurants. So much can be done with the right people in charge.

    3.6 Internationl executive – critical post which Mr stuart held for a long time. It’s no secret that SA racing in the current model is not able to sustain its self, international revenue is key. The foreign money is the glue that keeps Phumelela together and the person who gets this job has to know racing in and out. Not just about horses but its about relation building, selling a product, buying a product, and knowing how to structure SA racing to accommodate the rest of the world. One must know when and how to schedule racing and times, which days to race where. Vital to know the in’s and Out’s of this and Mr Gamble knew everything and kept this going very well.

    So when appointing a CEO, there needs to be a very careful consideration on the right appointment. The horse racing industry in unique and not everyone can do the job but everyone thinks they qualified enough. When you up there its not easy and now more than ever the person is going to have to fight tooth and nail to start up again because the whole world is looking at SA racing. A clean slate is needed and may the right person please stand up for the sake of our beautiful animal who we all love so much. Ego’s and fat salaries and favours for friends need to stop. Give people a chance who deserve to be there. Never forget that when a CEO makes a decision it goes to a vote and if there are 10 members and 7 are corrupt it does not matter what the other 3 genuine people do, they will always be out voted and always be second fiddle but sadly they will also be painted with the same brush.

    Please consider this article Mr editor, I think its very important

  8. Gman says:

    Incompetent is a big word.
    To have millions disappear is not the doing of incompetent people.

  9. LK says:

    ‘tasked with safeguarding, re-capitalising, and restructuring the racing industry’.

    charity for the rich.

  10. Brendon says:


    Over the last two decades we have witnessed the Horseracing industry being conflicted from the early days of laying its foundation for Phumelela, RA, Racing Trust, GC, KR to the peak of the Phumelela share price and their subsequent collapse into the Business Rescue High Care ward.

    While there is nothing unusual or necessarily wrong in having a conflict of interest, one has a duty to declare and manage it TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC INTEREST to ensuring high levels of integrity and public trust.

    It appears to me that Mr. Bloomberg is disillusioned with the TT (substantially RA directors) holding itself out to ‘safeguarding, re-capitalising and restructuring the racing industry’ when in fact they represent the private interests of MOD in investing in Phumelela only. I sense that KR and GC were under the impression that MOD was the white knight to save the industry.

    So, here are some of my thoughts on what is about to unfold over the next 12 months, while the different personalities (wearing multiple hats but still confused about what constitutes a conflict of interest) work out whether they are one team with a common goal or many teams with different agendas:
    (i) BR Practitioners are going to take no less than 9 months to put a plan together. The justification being plausible relating to COVID-19 travel restrictions that prevented face to face meetings with regional and international key employees and partners, site visits and understanding the operations sufficiently to determine a fair value. There is no quick fix to this problem as multiple regulators need to be consulted which is likely to add a few more months to the timelines. The BR Practitioners responsiveness to the industry’s urgings will be similar to NCC’s response to date, or a lot slower;
    (ii) Phumelela’s turnover will continue to be in freefall as their systems and operations will continue to lag their customers’ needs. Also, Phumelela’s suppliers will be demanding cash, upfront payment for goods and services while in business rescue which will see additional disruptions. Reality check – Phumelela were unable to provide a satisfactory service to its customer base when it had a full staff compliment and financial resources….are we expecting miracles over the next few months. Staff morale will be at an all-time low and productivity will reflect same. Any punter who understands transacting with an entity in Business Rescue would understand the real risk of not being paid on a winning ticket. Is the Gambling regulators and MOD going to provide assurance/guarantees in this regard? Has Phumelela developed a detailed start-up plan for when racing resumes? If Betting World’s traders are not kept on the straight and narrow, MOD’s R100m will not touch sides. Does one expect punters who were unable to withdraw their funds in the days preceding Phumelela’s Business Rescue announcement to return to Phumelela? Does Phumelela have a strategy and a compelling marketing plan to sign-up punters who ordinarily support other bookmakers?
    (iii) Tellytrack’s product, now with an even tighter Business Rescue budget and substantially the same personnel, is unlikely to get many viewers to tap the unmute button.
    (iv) KR and GC are not far off from Business Rescue which will be accelerated in the coming month(s) by Phumelela’s demise.
    (v) There will be a clear divergence in the agendas and objectives of the TT, SC and the respective entities that they represent.

    Is hope fuelling the optimism for the industry?

    The messaging from the key individuals (some were already wearing multiple hats before the advent of TT and the SC) and the organisations/bodies that they represent suggests that the battle line are drawn.

    The TT/RA expressed a view that all three operators need to be under one umbrella for the industry to be sustainable. Would KR and GC also need to collapse into the Business Rescue High Care ward before the TT/RA show them some love?

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