Michael Copeland was unanimously chosen to be the next Chief Executive Officer of Woodbine Entertainment by the company's board of directors. Copeland will take over from Jim Lawson–who announced he would be stepping down earlier this year–effective Oct. 1.
Copeland, who is currently President, Commercial, joined Woodbine Entertainment in 2021 after holding various leadership roles in sports and entertainment, including President and CEO of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts from 2015 to 2018, and President of the CFL's head office from 2006 to 2015.
He has a law degree from the University of Western Ontario and an MBA from Western's Ivey School of Business. He is a recipient of the prestigious Caldwell Partners/Globe & Mail “Canada's Top 40 Under 40” Award and the Western Law W. Iain Scott Business Leadership Award.
“We are thrilled to have a business leader of Michael's caliber to take on this role and lead our organization during a transformative time that is full of opportunity for Woodbine and the horse racing industry,” said Hugh Mitchell, Chair of Woodbine Entertainment's Board of Directors.
Looking forward to his new role, Copeland said, “We are one of the best multi-faceted sports and entertainment companies in North America and we have tremendous potential to further develop and grow with horse racing at the center of it all. With this role comes great responsibility as it supports a way of life for tens of thousands of families in Ontario, as it did for my wife's family for decades. I am excited about the opportunity we have to lead Woodbine and racing in Ontario to ambitious, new heights.”
The board has appointed Lawson to the position of executive chair.
“I have worked with Michael for many years, and I am truly excited for the strategic thinking and bold vision he will bring as CEO,” said Lawson. “I am also looking forward to contributing to Woodbine and the racing industry and supporting Michael in my new role as Executive Chair. Woodbine has accomplished many great things over the past decade, but the best is yet to come.”
As part of the transition and to support Copeland in his new role, it was also announced that long-time horse racing industry executive Bill Ford will assume the role of Chief Racing Officer and General Counsel. Ford has been an executive at Woodbine Entertainment since 2011 and prior to that, he was General Counsel and Secretary for Magna Entertainment (a predecessor of The Stronach Group) from 2003 to 2010.
“Bill brings deep knowledge and a lifelong passion for the sport of racing. With his experienced, steady hand overseeing our racing operations, we are very well-positioned to further strengthen our racing product and the Ontario racing industry,” said Copeland.