Cheltenham Racecourse MD to stand down after 100 Festival days

24th April 2012

Edward Gillespie will continue to work on various key projects for Jockey Club Racecourses

Edward Gillespie will continue to work on various key projects for Jockey Club Racecourses

Edward Gillespie, Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse, today announced his decision to stand down from the day-to-day management of the world-famous Gloucestershire venue after 32 years at the helm.

Gillespie has run Cheltenham Racecourse since the age of 27 in one of the longest tenures in British sport. He will continue in his position until a successor is appointed and then complete a full handover period designed to ensure a smooth management transition for one of British racing's crown jewels. He will also act as a consultant to Jockey Club Racecourses on various projects, including the next stage of development at Cheltenham Racecourse, which is undergoing a feasibility study.

In 2012, The Festival at Cheltenham attracted its largest ever attendance of 236,700 people over the four days. This crowd figure was 13,700 higher than 2011 and over 10 percent up on the number who attended in 2009.

Jockey Club Racecourses, the largest racecourse group in the UK[1], which owns Cheltenham Racecourse, will now launch an internal and external recruitment process to attract the most talented successor to Gillespie from
within the racing, sport and leisure industries.

Edward Gillespie said:

"It has been a privilege to manage Cheltenham for 32 years and striving for the continued success of this special place has been at the centre of everything I have done in that time. Gold Cup Day this year was my 100th Festival day in charge and it was extremely satisfying that it also marked our highest ever attendance, as the climax of a tremendous season at the Racecourse.

“I’m 60 years old in July and, while part of me feels I could carry on forever, I’m conscious that my sporting heroes have bowed out at the top of their game, carrying their bats so to speak. I’ve been here for a long time, so I’d love to get involved in other projects within sport or business in the last few years of my career.

“While I’ve managed my last Cheltenham Festival, I’m in no rush; I will continue in my current position until my successor is appointed and then support him or her for as long as it takes to achieve the smoothest transition for the Racecourse.

“We’ve built a great team at Cheltenham who will ensure the racecourse goes from strength-to-strength, as it has always done as part of The Jockey Club. During my tenure, more than £80m has been invested here, including £20m in the last decade. I will also continue to be involved in planning the next stage of development at Cheltenham on a consultancy basis.

“I’ll miss very much working with my colleagues and also looking after our customers, who have made Cheltenham the sporting Mecca it is today. Soon I will be an ordinary Cheltenham racegoer and I think that’s a great thing to be.” 

Paul Fisher, Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, said:

"Edward has worked tirelessly for the good of Cheltenham, The Jockey Club and British racing throughout his career. The progression of Cheltenham Racecourse over the last 32 years is clear for all to see and testament to
Edward and the strong team he has developed.

“We will be interviewing only the most talented potential successors from racing and the wider sports and leisure industry, which I’m sure will include candidates from within Jockey Club Racecourses. We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the end of an era is also the start of a bright new chapter for Cheltenham.

“That said, I’m pleased we will continue to work with Edward going forward on both Cheltenham and Group-related projects.”

Robert Waley-Cohen, Chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse, said:

"Over the past thirty years, The Festival at Cheltenham has developed into one of the great British sporting occasions and that is largely down to the energy, enthusiasm and expertise of Edward Gillespie. He has put his heart and soul into Cheltenham Racecourse during that time and the profile and popularity that Cheltenham now enjoys is a testament to Edward's skill in understanding what people want and developing a team that can
deliver it.

“That team is now in great shape to continue the success that Edward has engineered and everyone at Cheltenham and throughout the racing industry is immensely grateful for all that he has done."

[1] By turnover, attendances, fixtures, number of racecourses and contribution to prize money

About Edward Gillespie

Edward graduated from the University of York with a degree in Politics in 1973 and joined United Racecourses, owners of Epsom Downs, Kempton Park and Sandown Park Racecourses (now Jockey Club Racecourses), as a Trainee Manager in 1974.

He was appointed as Racecourse Manager at both Kempton Park and Sandown Park later that year and became part of the team managing The Derby at Epsom Downs.

In 1980 he was appointed General Manager (later Managing Director) at The Jockey Club’s Cheltenham Racecourse, a role that also included Warwick Racecourse and was subsequently appointed to the Board at both courses. He ceased being Managing Director at Warwick in 1986.

In 1994 he was appointed Managing Director of United Racecourses (Epsom, Kempton Park and Sandown Park) after its acquisition by The Jockey Club, while continuing his role at Cheltenham. During two years in this position, The Derby was moved to a Saturday, the paddock was re-sited behind the stands and a major sponsorship with Vodafone was secured.

Since 2008, Edward has been a Board member of Jockey Club Racecourses and he chairs the British Horseracing Authority’s Jump Racing Development Group, which revised the BHA’s Jump Racing Review in 2009.

Activities within Gloucestershire have included chairmanship of the Board of the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham, and currently, chair of Gloucester Cathedral Council and chair of the Summerfield Charitable Trust.

He is a Board member of the Gloucestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), chairing the Tourism sector group, Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Hon Freeman of Cheltenham and Hon Fellow of the University of Gloucestershire.

In 2011 Edward received one of the highest accolades in the sports industry when he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sport Industry Awards.