By Bill Finley
Some two years after he left his position as the executive director of racing for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Bill Nader is returning to his old job. He begins Monday.
“It's an exciting place to be,” Nader said. “If you are involved in horse racing, I'm not sure there's a more exciting place to be than in Hong Kong. The country has such a great passion for horse racing. I'm thrilled to be going back.”
The position opened up after Nader's replacement Tony Kelly, announced his resignation last week, citing personal reasons.
Nader's new title will be Director of Racing, Business Operations, but he said it is virtually the same job he had when first working in Hong Kong.
Nader came to Hong Kong originally from NYRA, where he worked his way up from the head of simulcasting to the No. 2 executive position in the organization. After nearly 13 years there, he left to accept the Hong Kong job. He returned to the U.S. in January, 2016 in order to spend more time with his family and “to simply have a break for a while.”
Nader let it be known that he was interested in returning to racetrack management in the U.S., but never quite found the right fit. He was brought on by a team looking to re-open Colonial Downs in Virginia and was poised to become CEO there if the track began racing again.
“I was a little disappointed,” he said of his not finding a job in the U.S. racing industry. “Everything seemed to come late, toward the end. There was the Colonial job and there was another offer from a track I don't feel comfortable mentioning. Instead, I kind of went with the sure thing. I know the Hong Kong deal. I know the people. I know the job. It's a good fit for me and going back there is like rolling back into my second home.”
Nader said Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges first broached the idea of his returning in December.
“It came together quickly,” he said. “I was over there in December for the international races and had lunch with Winfried and he said what do you think about the possibility of coming back at some point in some capacity. But we didn't get specific about what the role would be. Then as things shook out with the sudden departure of Tony, he said what about coming back and resuming your old responsibilities and the same job. It was really quite sudden.
“Given the situation with Tony, we thought it best to bring in someone who knows the business,” Engelbrecht-Bresges told the South China Morning Post. “We looked at what options we had, and for me the natural person for the role was Bill because he is familiar with the situation. He loves Hong Kong, he loves Hong Kong racing and he has huge credibility with stakeholders. Bill never lost touch because he is passionate about Hong Kong racing. So we maintained a dialogue after he left and when Bill saw the chance to be reunited with Hong Kong racing he jumped at the opportunity. Bill is also a Hong Kong resident, so it was an easy process to bring him in on short notice.”
Hong Kong racing is arguably the most successful racing operation in the world and Nader believes it will get even better. He said the opening of a new training center named Conghua will bring significant advances to Hong Kong racing.
“Conghua will allow the Jockey Club to expand the horse population and it will introduce a world-class training center,” Nader said. “There will be a mile-and-a-quarter turf track, an American style dirt track to train on and also an uphill turf gallop. It will be an extraordinary place to train horses. It will open in the summer and it is single most important strategic initiative in the history of the Jockey Club.”