submitted by Thoroughbred News on 18.11.2014
17 NOV 2014 | BY ROB BURNET
The chief executive of Racing NSW Peter V’landys has had his contract extended by a further three years according to a report in smh.com.au on Monday. There was no formal announcement of the decision on the Racing NSW site racingnsw.com.au as at early Monday morning.
The decision comes before the NSW Government announces if it will put legislation through the NSW Parliament before the House rises for the summer break to give NSW tax parity from wagering with Victoria’s government tax takeout.
It also comes before the Government announces the appointment of directors to fill three positions on the Board of Racing NSW.
The NSW Minister for Racing Troy Grant called for nominations for the three positions on October 2nd.
Three of the seven directors of Racing NSW, Alan Brown, Kevin Greene and Tony Hodgson, have terms that expire on December 18th, 2014. All three are eligible to apply for re-appointment.
“This is a great opportunity to ensure we have the best possible board for Racing NSW,” Mr Grant said in a statement at the time.
“Candidates for the Racing NSW board will be recommended based on merit and in accordance with the eligibility and skills-based criteria prescribed in the Thoroughbred Racing Act.
“Terms of up to four years can be recommended to me by the Selection Panel and I would like to see appointments of two, three and four years.
“This will ensure we are staggering the renewal and replacement of members of the board and don’t lose valuable corporate knowledge with multiple positions open at the same time,” said Grant.
The nominations closed on October 31st with the appointments to be announced in mid-December.
This is similar timing to the Government’s expressions of interest from candidates for the three independent directors’ positions, which expire on January 31st, 2015, on the board of the Australian Turf Club Ltd.
Grant said the three positions, currently held by Laurie Macri and John Camilleri, and Mark McInnes’ role which is currently vacant after his resignation earlier this year, would be for a term of up to four years.
The successful applicants are also due to be announced in mid-December.
The smh.com.au also says that Racing NSW is due to release its latest strategic plan this week with the plan to report on how the industry body would allocate the forecast additional $70 million in funds from tax parity should the legislation pass.
The majority of the additional funding would be used in stakes along with grants to country racing, Sydney autumn racing and a quarantine centre.
Peter V'landys, picture Sportpix.com.au
submitted by Sydney Morning Herald on 23.05.2014
V'landys cries foul after NSW government offers $10m loans instead of grants
Racing NSW in funding row with NSW Government
Sydney Morning Herald. May 21st, 2014. Sport page 41
Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys has taken the gloves off as he fights to retain $10 million in funding for the sport's showcase, The Championships, and for the future of racing in NSW.
The racing chief was left fuming about an offer of a $10 million loan to industry to run the event for the next four years by Premier Mike Baird, who has yet to met with racing officials. It was an offer that had been originally turned down six months ago.
However Racing NSW's main aim is to have a funding model that would put it on equal footing with other states.
"We have been working with the Premier's department for more than 12 months on the [TAB] funding model and The Championships is only part of it," V'landys said. "We are looking at TAB distribution model, which would give us another $90 million that would be used for prizemoney increases around the states.
"The TAB distribution is inequitable when compared to other states and all we want to be in the same position as Victoria."
The State government takes $3.22 from every $100 wagered on the tote, which is more than double the $1.28 take by Victoria. V'landys said the future of racing in NSW was dependant on getting the TAB model changed and had delayed the release of Racing NSW's strategic plan for more then a year.
"The $10 million to run The Championships this year was just a downpayment on the $90 million we would get every year if we had the same funding model as Victoria," V'landys said.
"We can't plan for the future until this is cleared up, it is holding back racing at every level.
"We are working under a ridiculous funding model that worked in the 1960-70s but is outdated in 2014 with the new world wagering that includes corporate bookmakers.
"The NSW government takes out more than any other state now and we were negotiating a level playing field."
The TAB distribution is not growing in real terms and it is one of the major concerns for the racing industry. The racefields fees paid by all wagering operators, which V'landys led the fight on, has gone some way to filling the income gap for the sport.
Fairfax Media understands Premier Baird has not met with racing officials since he took over from Barry O'Farrell last month. He had not made contact with Racing NSW about the loan.
"This is something we rejected six months ago," V'landys said. "We had a good working relationship with the former premier but we won't be rolling over and taking a loan, which we will have to payback, therefore cutting our TAB distribution further.
"This Championships has shown it grows wagering, so under the loan plan the government doesn't only get it $10 million back, it shares in the profits of the event.
"How is that fair?"
submitted by Kytherian Newsletter Sydney on 20.04.2014
Peter V'landys. Member of the Order of Australia (AM)
On Australia Day 2014, Peter V’landys was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for services to racing.
To view / download a copy of this article as a .pdf, go to:
In the Australian honours system, appointments to the Order of Australia confer recognition for outstanding achievement and service. The Member of the Order of Australia is awarded for service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group.
Recipients of the Order of Australia are from many fields of endeavour and all walks of life. The Order of Australia has four levels:
• Companion of the Order (AC)
• Officer of the Order (AO)
• Member of the Order (AM), and
• Medal of the Order (OAM)
Peter V’landys is one of those fortunate people who are able to combine their passion with their profession. He is an Australian racing administrator who holds the position of Chief Executive and Board Member with Racing NSW (an independent body established to control and regulate the NSW Thoroughbred Racing Industry). As chief executive of Racing NSW, Peter oversees the state’s massive thoroughbred racing industry - the ideal job for someone who has been passionate about racing since childhood. He formerly held the position of Chief Executive of the NSW Harness Racing Club and currently serves on a number of Boards associated with the thoroughbred racing industry.
Peter attributes his Member of the Order of Australia honour to the hard work of his parents, who migrated from Kythera, Greece when he was a young boy.
Peter V’landys was born in the Vlandis “patriko” house, in the village of Kalokerines on Kythera, Greece, in 1962. The patriko house of Peter’s grandfather is easy to locate. It lies 80 metres from the church of Ayios Spyridonas, Kalokerines, on the road to Myrtidiotissa. There, 30 metres off the road, on the right, is a ‘camara’, known to all the locals, as “Fossa”. Another ‘patriko’, Peter’s father’s family’s house, is located adjacent to the ‘camara’ of his grandfather.
His pappou, Paul Vlandis – known as “Pavlis” - was extremely well known on Kythera. One of his tasks, in the lead up to ceremony of Myrtidiotissa, was to go to every house on the island on a donkey, and collect the oil that each household donated to the church. Pavlis had 12 children, one of whom was Peter’s father, Nick(olas). Nick was one of four (4) of Pavlis’s twelve (12) children who migrated to Australia.
Peter V’landys mother was Katerina Petrochilos, known as ‘Peters’ in Australia She was the daughter of Alex and Kirrani Petrochilos, from Fratsia, Kythera.
Despite leaving the island at age 3, a number of childhood memories have remained very vivid for Peter. He recalls as a small boy that he loved eating almonds. “I used to eat them by the bucket loads”. When it was time for him to leave the village, his grandfather Pavlis planted an almond tree with him. “You will be gone”, his grandfather said, “but this tree will still be here.”
He vividly remembers falling off a donkey, and “splitting my head open”. Also the many long walks, even as a small child that he undertook, up and down the road between Kalokerines and Myrtidiotissa. He also recalls vividly his best friend at the time - a young girl called Maria.
Peter’s father Nick migrated alone to Australia in 1963. He had joined a brother and sister in Wollongong, and another at Gosford - in Australia. In 1965 Peter’s mother Katerina along with his two older brothers Paul and Alex, left Kythera and migrated to Australia on the Patris.
Jim Vlandis from Gosford recalls picking up the family from the dock in Sydney, and waiting for Nick to arrive from Wollongong to be reunited with his family. The family settled in Wollongong.
Nick and Katerina lived the typical Kytherian-Greek migrant’s life in Australia. “We were very poor,” Peter V’landys says. “It was a struggle early on. My parents sometimes had to go without food to feed the three kids. Dad worked 18-hour days in the Wollongong steelworks. Because he didn't have the language, that was the best he could get. He was a 'doubler'. He worked every day from 6 am and he would normally finish at four, but then he would do a doubler. He'd finish at l am, and then start at six again. He retired when he was 60 and died when he was 64. Mum worked 12-hour shifts in a cafe so that I'd have a good chance in life. My work pales into insignificance compared to theirs. I've never seen a man and woman who worked as hard." Peter had jobs from age nine.
Peter V’landys has returned to Kythera on two occasions, the first time as a 28 year old. “When I went back, the first thing I went to look for was the almond tree. It was there were pappou had planted it”. It filled Peter with joy to see it. He was also reunited again with his childhood friend, Maria.
In 2009 he went back to Kythera a second time with his wife Philippa. On this occasion, under the bed in the patriko home, Peter found a small icon of a patron saint. He put it in his wallet, and has never removed it from his wallet since. “You know, I have lost my wallet twice, but on each occasion it has been returned to me with all its contents intact. I am sure that it was the patron saint that ensured that this happened.” The saint has been identified as Ayia Paraskevi. (See photograph). Again, on the 2009 visit, he met with his childhood friend, Maria. Tragically, Maria has since ‘passed away’.
Growing up in Wollongong, Peter fell in love with racing when a friend introduced him to neighbours who used to regularly watch Harold Park harness racing on television. "There was a horse called Paleface Adios that really got my interest. At the age of 10, I used to buy the Trotting Guide and The Sportsman, and go to the TAB and find somebody older, an 18 year old, to put my bets on. “He would take a ‘sling’ (a %) every time I'd win”. I had an unbelievable strike rate. I was a very good form reader. I used to punt quite a bit for a young bloke.” “But I also realised early on that betting really had to be treated as entertainment - it's not something you do if you want to buy a house''?
Peter attended West Wollongong Primary and Keira Boys High School. It was a teacher at Keira who insisted on spelling his name “V-‘-l-a-n-d-y-s”. “He kept on spelling it that way...and it stuck”. At Keira Boys High his mathematics teacher advised him to study Accountancy. (‘There’s no money in Teaching”.) He gained entry to Wollongong University, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree majoring in Accounting.
To pay his way through accountancy at Wollongong University, V'landys became the manager of the Unanderra Hotel at the tender age of 18. Originally employed as a glass collector and cellarman, owner, Duke Taylor employed him to manage the Hotel. “I thought, 'This a bit of a hard job for me at 18,” says V'landys. “And all the staff agreed. They went on strike.” But V'landys stayed, and Taylor, he says, taught him the motto, “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, you baffle them with bullshit”. “And that's really been a good piece of advice,” he says. “It's helped me a lot.”
At 20, V'landys used money he had saved and borrowed to buy the Courthouse Tavern – “a good, wholesome, old-fashioned restaurant” across the road from the (legal) Courthouse in Wollongong, which thrived, despite having no new-age chefs et cetera”.
Peter worked part-time for a Wollongong accountancy firm throughout university. “So I was basically getting up at five o'clock in the morning and studying for uni,” he says, “starting at nine o'clock at the accounting practice, and then taking over at the restaurant at 5.30 until about 10pm. I learnt what hard work is.” He sold the restaurant after about two years, making “a reasonably good profit”.
“The education I received at university was invaluable and a major factor in my career path. I was very impressed with the relaxed atmosphere and the social life, but coming from an all-boys school I remember feeling quite intimidated sitting next to girls, because I didn’t know the etiquette.”
After he graduated at the end of 1984, Peter joined a multinational mining company in Sydney. Within 12 months he was promoted to company secretary, but the lure of the racing industry would prove to be irresistible.
On February 15th, 2003 he married his wife Philippa (nee, Hooke), an executive assistant at the CSIRO. They live in Hunters Hill with the cat and their three children, Katerina, Nicholas and Maddie. Peter and Philippa have followed the Greek-Kytherian tradition of naming their first two children after the paternal grandparents. In fairness Philippa chose Maddies name. Maddies middle name is Anna, named after Peter’s mother’s mother.
Speaking in June 2010, when Nicholas was 20 months old and Katerina six months old, Peter asserted, “That's the best thing that's happened to me, the two little ones. My little girl is completely hyperactive – I don't know where she gets that from – and the little boy's as docile as anything.”
He'd been awake with the kids since 4am but, he says, “I never used to sleep anyway, so it's nothing new. When you work in one of these roles, you lie in bed and your mind just keeps going at 100 miles an hour. You find it very hard to sleep. But when you do, it's a real joy.”
After commencing his career in the mining and leisure sectors, V’landys became involved in racing administration in 1988 when he was appointed as Chief Executive of the NSW Harness Racing Club the leading harness racing club in Australia which operated successful racing operations at Harold Park and Menangle Paceway. At that time he was the youngest person in Australia to be appointed as Chief Executive of a major metropolitan race club and under his administration, the NSW Harness Racing Club established a record of innovation including conducting an on-track registered club which made Harold Park the first racetrack to have poker machines (200) on course. This and several other commercial enterprises provided the Club with the broadest revenue base of any racing club in Australia.
During his tenure at Harold Park, Peter helped organise a number of Kytherian Association of Australia functions at the race course.
During this period Peter V’landys also played an integral role on behalf of the NSW racing industry in negotiations in relation to the $1 billion privatization of the NSW TAB and the restructuring of the Racing Industry’s finances.
In 2004 he was appointed to the position of Chief executive and Board Member of Racing NSW. In this role Peter V’landys also sits as a Board Member of several other NSW and Australian racing and wagering industry Boards.
Peter V’landys’ career achievements
In mid-2007, the States’ (and the country’s) racing industry was brought to a standstill as a result of an outbreak of equine influenza (a highly contagious exotic disease). New South Wales was the most effected State with all racing cancelled and the movement of all horses prohibited indefinitely. These actions had disastrous ramifications for the 50,000 persons who rely on the industry for all or part of their livelihoods and on the economies of Australia and New South Wales.
As V’landys noted, other than wars and the Depression, the only time racing stopped in Australia was in 1814, when Governor Macquarie put a halt to the very popular thoroughbred meetings because people were unfit to work for many days afterwards due to excessive celebrations.
V’landys assumed responsibility for the overall coordination of the industry’s response to this crisis and developed and implemented contingency plans to counter the effects of the outbreak and ensure the protection of the industry’s stakeholders. This involved negotiating with the Federal and State Governments for the provision of funding to establish emergency welfare schemes. He personally negotiated with the Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard MP and was successful in obtaining Government assistance in an unprecedented $235 million Rescue Package.
"Peter V’landys alone devised the concept of subsidising race horses," Peter McGauran, then Federal Agriculture Minister recalls. “At $20 a day for trotters and pacers, and $60 for thoroughbreds, V'landys reasoned they could keep a multibillion-dollar industry afloat - and the trainers, jockeys and strappers in work - so they could race as soon as the disease was eradicated”.
"It was brilliant in its concept," McGauran says. "But subsidising racehorses is a totally foreign concept with treasury and finance." So he introduced V'landys to then Prime Minister Howard - who, after 90 minutes, was a “champion” of the scheme. "Without V'landys enlisting the personal support of John Howard, the industry today would be a shell of what it once was."
McGauran testifies that Peter “builds an instant rapport and establishes a basis of trust quicker than almost anyone I've met. He's compellingly sincere and reliable, and he's relentless in his advocacy for racing, an industry structured in portals of self-interest. His rare gifts are that he got them unified into one voice, and that he understands racing in all its complexity. Too often others have no idea about achieving the possible."
V’landys oversaw the administration of the schemes to combat Equine Influenza, which were directed at participants, not only in the thoroughbred racing industry, but also in the standard bred racing and leisure horse industries.
On a State level Peter worked closely with the Minister for Primary Industries and his Department to contain the spread of the disease and our joint activities helped to mitigate the financial impact of the outbreak.
He also lobbied relevant NSW Ministers for the provision of further financial assistance which resulted in the provision of a $7.5 million grants scheme for the industry’s participants and race clubs and the establishment of a Special Mortgage Deferment Scheme for racing industry participants and a further one off grant to help promote the industry following the resumption of normal racing activities.
V’landys received many letters, and other messages of support, in the days following the announcement that he has received the Member of the Order of Australia award. Peter is not an openly emotional man, but he was genuinely moved by one writer’s sentiments. “I will never forget what you did for the racing industry participants during the equine influenza outbreak,’’ the letter read. “You kept food on the table for many families in racing, you gave us hope to keep going.’’
World Youth Day negotiations with State and Federal Governments
Following the Government’s announcement that the 200x World Youth Day would be held in Sydney and centred at Randwick Racecourse Peter V’landys coordinated the industry’s planning for the use of the Racecourse and the disruption which would be caused to the activities and livelihoods of racing industry participants during the World Youth Day activities. This included dealing with the NSW and Federal Governments and the Catholic Church and he was able to negotiate a $40 million compensation package for the racing industry.
Peter V’landys stood up to the authority of the Catholic Church, and what was referred to at the time, as “bullying tactics”, and won. "I ... think Mr Pell is a bully," V'landys said at the time. "He's refused any meeting with us because he realises he's not in a position of strength, because he's forcing his will on someone who doesn't want to comply. I've got nothing against the Catholic Church, or against a world-significant event, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the racing industry."
Race Field Legislation
Immediately upon his appointment with Racing NSW in 2004, Peter recognized the importance of the Thoroughbred Racing Industry maintaining ownership of the intellectual property rights in its racing product so as to ensure the protection of its wagering revenues.
Initially he explored the application of copyright laws to achieve this purpose. However, in 2008, as a result of his recommendations, the NSW Government enacted race field legislation which allowed the NSW racing industry to generate significant revenue from interstate and overseas wagering operators who were using the NSW product to conduct their wagering operations. Wherever corporate bookmakers based themselves, they had to pay a percentage to Racing NSW for publishing the field.”
In accord with the legislation V’landys developed a scheme for the collection of revenue from those operators. This program is returning up to $50 million per annum to the NSW thoroughbred racing industry and following the successful implementation of the scheme, the Governments and racing industries of other Australian States and Territories also introduced similar schemes.
Subsequent to the commencement of the scheme, the legislation and its implementation were challenged in the courts by two major wagering operators, Sportsbet and Betfair. V’landys coordinated and ran Racing NSW’s legal defense against those challenges and the matter came before a single judge of the Federal Court, the Full bench of the Federal Court, and subsequently before the High Court of Australia which found unanimously in favour of Racing NSW. The March 2012 outcome allowed the release of $150 million in accrued funds to the industry and ensured the on-going receipt of $50 million per annum.
V’landys’ efforts on this front have been recognized world-wide by international racing authorities.
Peter attests that “the biggest battle I've had in racing was with the wagering operators.” Again, he won the long fight but, “it was a strenuous battle, because it got quite personal”. The bookmakers accused him of dissembling, incompetence and misrepresentation. “They unleashed a tsunami of personal attacks which I had to cop. Sometimes I used to go to bed hating myself, after some of the stuff I'd read. It got to a situation when I got home and the cat kicked me, rather than me kicking the cat.”
In addition to its positive effect on the NSW thoroughbred racing industry the High Court result also provided certainty for the NSW Harness Racing and Greyhound Racing industries and all racing industries in the other States and territories, which were then able to proceed confidently with their funding models.
The Australian Jockey Club (AJC) and Sydney Turf Club (STC) merger
The Australian Jockey Club (AJC) was founded in January 1842.The AJC was considered the senior racing club in Australia and was responsible for founding the Australian Stud Book, which the combined club still oversees today. The club also, in conjunction with the Victoria Racing Club, formulated the Rules of Racing that is followed by all Australian race clubs.
The Sydney Turf Club (STC) was founded in 1943 and was the youngest of Australia's principal race clubs. It was formed following an Act passed by the New South Wales parliament called the Sydney Turf Club Act.
Both the AJC and the STC had co-existed as independent bodies since the early 1940s. A merger proposal was first mooted at the turn of the 21st century. However, the first real push for a merger came with the release of a report by Ernst and Young in June 2009 which recommended that a merger would save the New South Wales racing industry from collapse. The NSW Government pledged $174 million for Sydney racing if the merger went ahead, including a major revitalisation of Randwick racecourse. The move for a merger was controversial, with members of both clubs hesitant to lose their respective identities. While AJC members voted in favour of a merger, STC members voted against a merger. Nevertheless, the board of the STC decided to proceed with a merger.
Against resistance from traditionalists, Peter V'landys pushed the merger of the AJC and the STC, and a deal was clinched in October 2010, with a $174 million injection into merged bodies coffers.
More recently Peter negotiated the sale to TAB Ltd of the NSW Thoroughbred Racing Industry’s future revenues from the computer generated racing game “trackside”. This sale realised $150 million for the industry and has allowed the development of new world class spectator facilities at the Randwick Racecourse.
These magnificent facilities’ include two new grandstands, a function centre, restaurants, corporate boxes and a 4500-seat horse parade ring. He has also driven significant prize money increases across the three tiers of racing. Little wonder that they call Peter V’landys, “the messiah”, and “the man who saved the industry”.
The small punters mate
Peter V'landys has masterminded deals that have pumped more than a $1 billion into the NSW thoroughbred industry - but it's the little wins for battlers that he holds most dear.
V’landys has said that one his of career highlights was convincing the TAB not to proceed with a decision to increase its minimum bet limit from 50c to $5.
"I felt sorry for all the little punters, many of them pensioners, who really enjoy a 50c each-way flutter,'' he said. "I went as hard as I've ever gone to help keep that minimum limit - it's probably my battler background coming out.''
One of Sydney’s 40 Most influential people. One of Australia’s 50 Top Sports People.
In the Sunday Telegraph of the 3rd March, 2013, Peter was ranked 40th amongst Sydney’s most influential people.
The Australian of the 5th May, 2013 ranked him 22nd amongst the Top 50 Sports People in Australia.
Looking to the Future
It is unheard of for a Chief Executive of Racing at the highest levels to maintain the position for even three years. February 2014 marked 10 years since Peter V’landys was appointed to the position of Chief executive and Board Member of Racing NSW.
Adam Taylor writing in the Daily Telegraph on the 28th February, 2014 argues that “even V'landys must reflect on what a difference a decade makes. Sydney racing is preparing for the inaugural The Championships series and the most anticipated autumn carnival in memory. The sport is well-placed to take full advantage of the gilt-edged opportunities delivered by the preceding decade”.
Peter V’landys is not a person to rest on past achievements. He is always guided by a vision for the future. "There's still a lot of work to be done, the racing industry has many challenges ahead." When asked to elaborate on what those challenges are, he specified the following:
Racing needs to find ways to stay relevant to the new generations.
Racing’s revenue base is and has been under threat so it must do everything in its power to at minimum maintain the base and ideally ensure it grows.
The need to embrace and maximise the advantages provided by technologies
Maintaining the integrity of racing at all cost.
Racings big issues for V’landys include:
The Championship Funding.
“We would never have commenced The Championships if we didn’t believe we could sustain the prize money.
Sydney Race Clubs Merger.
“Naturally with new facilities at Randwick some people’s perception is that the AJC has benefited most. I think the ATC is working very hard to ensure the success at Rosehill.”
Racing’s NSW’s Strategic Plan
It was completed 12 months ago but cannot be released as the major driver for all the initiatives is currently under consideration by a third party and releasing the plan may jeopardise success with the delicate state of play.
“Like any industry there are people who are driven by self-interest and those who have an unhealthy sense of entitlement. Unfortunately I have a low tolerance for these types”.
The Past Ten Years
“I think in the ten years I experienced every emotion known to humanity. As psychology professor Robert Plutchik says there are eight emotions: joy, sadness, fear, trust, disgust, surprise, anger and anticipation. I definitely experienced every one of these”.
Whilst we are on the subject of psychology, a number of psychological qualities have been consistently attributed to Peter V’landys by astute observers. Above all, he is a winner. Rick Feneley from the Sydney Morning Herald has quipped that “the state's straight-talking racing boss has winning form”. Robert Nason, then Tabcorp's boss of wagering, encountered one of the toughest negotiators he has ever seen. Nason, now with Telstra, always respected V’landys honesty. "A lot of people have underestimated Peter to their ultimate detriment."
V’landys is a hard-nosed negotiator; his modus operandi is to tackle the difficult issues head-on and find a solution with a "can-do" machismo which often irritates his opponents. Peter has time and again been called the “can do” man. Some even go further, calling him a “saviour”, and some go even further still, calling him a “messiah”.
V'landys makes no apologies for refusing to back down when he believes passionately about a cause. He is straight-talking to the point of bluntness. "I think you've got to do your best for any organisation. If that sometimes comes across as abrasive, so be it. I've never wanted to win a popularity contest." V’landys is tough. He is very combative. As one racing identity put it, “he would rather have a fight, than a feed”.
V’landys always thinks holistically about racing. His vision ranges beyond entrenched and factional interests; always seeking the greater good for the entire racing industry.
The Member of the Order of Australia honour is a deserved acknowledgment for the man who has been at the helm of the NSW racing industry for a decade, throughout the most turbulent period in its history. This also makes him very durable.
Peter V’landys achievements are profoundly significant. All Australians, all Greek-Australians and all Kytherians around the world can take great pride in them.
The author would like to thank Peter V’landys for agreeing to be interviewed, and for the candour of his responses. Also to Jim Vlandis, Gosford, for providing information about the Vlandis family in Kalokerines, Kythera.
The structure and content of information about the Racing Industry was sourced from the WIKI entry for Peter V’landys http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_V'landys
Links to numerous newspaper articles about Peter V’landys, and Racing NSW Annual reports were accessed from the WIKI article bibliography as well as Google searches.
submitted by Sydney Morning Herald on 02.03.2014
Sydney Morning Herald
November 3, 2007
Peter V'landys is as fearless as he was in his youth and continues to take on politicians, corporations and the Catholic Church, writes David Humphries.
Duke Taylor was not a bloke for backward steps. Thirty years ago as the proprietor of Wollongong's Unanderra Hotel - then the state's biggest outside Sydney - Taylor needed a pub manager in a hurry.
He plucked from obscurity an 18-year-old immigrant kid paying his way through accountancy at Wollongong University. The rest of the crew - 70 of them - was outraged, and went on strike, insisting they would not be bossed by someone so wet behind the ears. It was, of course, to no avail.
"Duke, one of my mentors in life, wouldn't give in, so I managed the hotel full-time (with the strikers back in the fold) for two years while at university," says Peter V'landys (pronounced Velandees). His regret then was that it cost him his rugby league playing career, even though he reckons he had what it took to make the big time. His short stature for a backrow forward was countered by the physical hardening of years as a part-time furniture removalist , and the determination never to die wondering.
The V'landys now so much in the headlines for his David and Goliath battles with political, corporate and church might (and vested interests in his own sector) on behalf of NSW thoroughbred racing - which he says is at its "greatest crossroads" - was forged in those early days.
"I wasn't the biggest bloke" on the rugby league field, he acknowledges, but right now the bulk of the racing industry reckon he is 10 feet tall. Testimonials for the chief executive of the state's regulatory body, Racing NSW, speak for themselves.
Gai Waterhouse, leading trainer: "Peter has been instrumental in standing solid. People tend to pitch up for themselves, rather than for the industry as a whole. But Peter has been very good at getting people to realise their joint interests, rather than their sectional."
Norman Gillespie is the new boss of the Australian Jockey Club, one of V'landys's key obstacles when he took the job four years ago. Gillespie was previously chief administrator of the Opera House: "It took the EI (equine influenza) crisis for him to come to the fore. He is certainly a formidable negotiator and great on his media feet. EI is the circuit-breaker, the breakpoint for the industry, to unite behind one voice.
"Peter and the AJC [which ran the gallops from its Royal Randwick headquarters until Racing NSW was established a decade ago, and which jealously resented the intrusion on its fiefdom] did not previously get along, but I can tell you we're Darby and Joan now. Peter is my kind of guy."
John Messara, leading breeder: "He's done his best in difficult circumstances, a very good job, and he's gained broad respect for his agitation on EI. He's a very passionate guy, a bit of a bull at the gate, but always well-intentioned, always with the industry's interests at heart."
Peter McGauran, the Federal Agriculture Minister with whom V'landys negotiated a breakthrough $234 million package for EI: "He builds an instant rapport and establishes a basis of trust quicker than almost anyone I've met. He's compellingly sincere and reliable, and he's relentless of his advocacy of racing, an industry structured in portals of self-interest. His rare gifts are that he got them unified into one voice, and that he understands racing in all its complexity. Too often others have no idea about achieving the possible."
Les Young, recently chairman of the Racing Industry Participants Advisory Committee to Racing NSW: "He's had rocky times when he has not always endeared himself to all sectors, but he has really shone in this time of crisis. The industry has been very lucky to have had in place someone so committed and effective a negotiator, a saviour of the industry."
John Muir, president of Thoroughbred Breeders NSW: "It was like war with the EI crisis. The racing and breeding industry was pinned down in the trenches. Peter V'landys rallied his troops, demonstrated by example that he was prepared to take all the bullets, and fought and negotiated tirelessly with bureaucracy to achieve an acceptable outcome. He deserves a medal."
Brian Fletcher, chief executive of Hawkesbury race club, one of five "provincial", or third-tier, tracks in NSW: "He's as smart a racing administrator as I've seen in 19 years - and I've seen them all. The industry would have struggled to survive without him."
The naysayers are not so forthcoming, reflecting probably V'landys's ascendancy in these troubled times. Resentment towards V'landys still runs deep at the Rosehill headquarters of the Sydney Turf Club, even though it was one of the key agitators for stripping the Australian Jockey Club of its previous control of racing. The Sydney Turf Club chose to make no comment for this article, and the AJC, with board and management replaced, chooses co-operation over obstruction.
Born on the Greek island of Kythera 46 years ago, V'landys migrated early with his family to Wollongong, where dad Nicholas worked in the steel mills and his mother in a cafe.
"We barely got to see them because they were always working to do the best for the family," he says.
His youth - football, work, education filling the available hours - served as an apprenticeship for the day he again would be required to juggle so many challenges simultaneously.
After a stint as a mining company accountant in Sydney, he audaciously applied at 26 for the chief executive job at the Harness Racing Club at Harold Park, even though he did not know Glebe's location. He turned around its misfortunes and came to the notice of the fledgling Racing NSW when he negotiated (to the benefit of thoroughbred racing too) a healthy distribution of totalisator revenue when the TAB was sold.
The racing regulator's courtship of V'landys might have come too late had he secured the chief executive role at the National Rugby League. "I was considered the frontrunner but I must have fallen over in the straight," he says. "But I'm glad in some ways I didn't go there." So, too, is his growing following in the NSW thoroughbred business.
V'landys has been caught in the headlights of three simultaneous crises - EI, the disruption to Randwick by next winter's Papal visit, with its intrusion by hundreds of thousands of youth pilgrims risking next year's spring carnival (lost this year to EI), and outrage over the Iemma Government's backdoor negotiations to admit the Packer-associated betting exchange, Betfair. Like Duke Taylor before him, he's not taken a backward step.
But it is not as if the seas are suddenly tumultuous. The broader picture is one of the sport of kings struggling, and to date mostly failing, to keep its crown. Attendances have plummeted and betting stagnated, forcing an exodus of trainers, jockeys and horses.
None of this was aided by V'landys's loss two years ago to the Australian Jockey Club and Sydney Turf Club over the clubs' negotiation of television rights with ThoroughbredVision (TVN) over the TAB-owned Sky Channel. V'landys likens the agreement - which gives TVN exclusivity over the Jockey Club, the Turf Club and Victorian racing - to a couple of NRL clubs doing side deals on broadcasting.
But Racing NSW's effort to block the deal fell flat on its face in the Supreme Court, exposing as a toothless tiger the NSW law supposedly bestowing full authority on the regulator.
"As history showed, all our concerns [confirmed by independent analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers] came to fruition, and we lost $160 million in betting turnover - the industry's main source of income - when punters turned away in droves," V'landys says.
Had the two premier race clubs been able to get rid of V'landys then, they most certainly would have.
Having promised a legislative repair job to re-assert Racing NSW's authority, the State Government has been far less accommodating on Betfair. "We've got a government that doesn't understand racing; a new minister [Graham West] - a nice enough fella - who hasn't been to a racetrack in his life, and yet he's been thrust on a multibillion business," V'landys says.
Betfair, he says, is offering the industry a return of 24 cents in every $100 bet, and nothing to the Government, compared with $4.50 each from TAB distributions.
"The biggest irony is that the biggest loser is the Government, and yet they're going behind the scenes negotiating with these operators on how much they should pay us. That's a negotiation for us and them, not government."
Unlike the State Government failure to even consult with racing on Betfair, V'landys's indefatigability struck Federal Government pay dirt on the influenza epidemic that nine weeks ago locked down all matters equine in NSW and Queensland.
On the day before APEC began in Sydney, he was given 90 minutes to convince the Prime Minister of the need for an unprecedented rescue package built on the novel idea of a daily subsidy for each affected horse - $20 for trotters and pacers, $60 for thoroughbreds.
McGauran, who set up the meeting with John Howard, says: "The idea of such payments was foreign to Treasury and Finance; they couldn't get their heads around it. But V'landys explained it to the Prime Minister with clarity and conviction."
V'landys says: "I was astounded with his level of knowledge of the industry. The Prime Minister had no hesitation. He could see the sense of it."
But V'landys is still knocking his head against the Randwick papal invasion brick wall of the Catholic Church, rather than locking horns with its Australian leader, the Sydney archbishop, Cardinal George Pell.
"I still think Mr Pell is a bully," V'landys says. "He's refused any meeting with us because he realises he's not in a position of strength, because he's forcing his will on someone who doesn't want to comply.
"I've got nothing against the Catholic Church, against a world-significant event, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the racing industry."
V'landys is straight-talking to the point of bluntness. "I think you've got to do your best for any organisation. If that sometimes comes across as abrasive, so be it. I've never wanted to win a popularity contest."
He has confronted head-on the snobbery and occasionally aristocratic bearing of racing's elite.
"In any industry, there are vocal minority groups that get more than they should, and I broke up a lot of these cliques - they called it the mafia. The biggest handicap in racing is that they don't like change."
submitted by Sydney Morning Herald on 27.02.2014
Peter was one of three Kytherians honoured on Australia Day, 2014. The others were Angelo Notaras, and Clary Castrission
Photograph: Fighter: Peter V'landys at his desk. ''Everyone knows I'm the gunslinger,'' he says. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Sydney Morning Herald
January 26, 2014
Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald
This tough guy in a tie hasn't forgotten where he came from.
He has taken on the prime minister, the Pope and then a force of nature larger than all of them - the corporate bookmakers.
The common line proffered from more than one stakeholder in the multibillion-dollar racing industry nails him in one: ''He'd rather a fight than a feed.''
''I take that as a compliment,'' says Peter V'landys, chief executive of Racing NSW. ''I'm proud of that. I know in myself that I'm a tough negotiator. The people who don't like me - and I know there are people who don't like me - are the hangers-on and the parasites, and I don't have any time for them either. You help the good people. Everyone knows I'm a hard negotiator. Everyone knows I'm the gunslinger.''
On Sunday, the most powerful and equally controversial man in NSW racing will be named in the Australia Day honours as a Member of the Order of Australia.
It will be a triumph for the obstinacy and resolve of V'landys, the third-youngest boy of Greek migrants who came to Australia in the 1960s in search of a better life.
It will be recognition for the fact V'landys has earned roughly $1 billion for his sport since his appointment in 2004, after navigating it through several major crises, and despite how some in a sport flush with old money and dynasties still consider him.
''There are some of them [in the racing industry] who think, 'What's an immigrant bloke doing running racing?','' he says. ''No matter what you do, there's still racism. And you live with it. I still cop it. This award is for all the hard work my mum and dad put in.''
They say you know when V'landys has had a big day of work at the track, because his shirt is hanging out the back of his pants, and his hair is all fuzzed up. His suit is more Kelly Country than Hugo Boss. He'd rather roll up his sleeves than worry about whether there's a French cuff at the end of them.
When the equine influenza outbreak threatened to cripple racing in 2007, it was V'landys who personally squeezed a $235 million rescue package out of the prime minister, John Howard.
The scene: the son of poor Greek migrants wanting millions from one of the country's shrewdest PMs.
''You couldn't describe it better,'' he says. ''I thought, 'What am I doing here?' But we're all the same. John Howard is the same as me. I can talk to him but have the same respect for the guy who collects the rubbish at Randwick racecourse. I treat them the same. That's how I was brought up. I treated him as John.
''I told him there were 50,000 people out of work, and we got offered $5 million from the federal government. I said, 'I'm not taking that. That's ridiculous.' Some other administrators might've said that's enough but I didn't.''
A year later V'landys negotiated $40 million from the federal and NSW governments, and the Catholic Church, when the church held World Youth Day at Randwick racecourse.
Then he marched the cashed-up corporate bookmakers all the way up every step of every court in the land, ending with the High Court, as he pushed through legislation that handed the racing industry $150 million in frozen funds and a further $60 million each year.
''I've never made a decision that was easy for me,'' V'landys says. ''If I went the other way, I'd never forgive myself. I knew I could've sat here and made a nice crust and let the racing industry die on the vine. Sometimes you have to fight. If you don't lose blood in your job, you're not doing your job.
''If you look at the personal crap I went through and continue to go through … Nobody saw the trolls that I saw. At one stage, when I read them, I started hating myself.''
He chuckles. It's difficult to tell if it's self-effacement or just for show.
''One guy came in for an interview here, saying he wanted to meet me,'' he continues. ''He wanted to tell me that the directive of the boss - and I won't tell you the name of the bookie, but he was one of the leading ones - was to get on all the [internet] forums and make up a name and bad [mouth] V'landys when we had spare time. Just give it to him.''
In many respects, they picked the wrong bloke to brawl with, because V'landys has been fighting his whole life. He grew up in Wollongong, and his father, Nicholas, worked 18 hours a day in the steel works.
''And he was better than that,'' explains V'landys. ''Because he didn't have the language, that was the best he could get. He was a 'doubler'. He worked every day from 6am and he would normally finish at four, but then he would do a doubler. He'd finish at 1am, then start at six again. He retired when he was 60 and died when he was 64.''
His mother, Katerina, is still alive.
V'landys grew up adoring two things apart from his parents: Dragons fullback Graeme Langlands and the great pacer Paleface Adios.
''I stalked that horse,'' he explains. ''I would go to Harold Park. I caught the train and snuck away and my parents didn't know where I was. I'd stand at the gate and watch him. From the age of about seven or eight, I would be at the TAB. I was the TAB's youngest customer.
''I got this bloke who was 18 to bet for me, and the bastard would charge me a commission. Every time he won, he pocketed 20 per cent but I didn't care because I just needed to get the bets on.''
A talented rugby league player, V'landys sank the wages he earned managing a hotel in Wollongong into buying the Courthouse Tavern when he was only 19. ''I used the catchphrase, 'You can be the judge'.''
Then, in the late 1980s, he became chief executive at Harold Park at just 26, turning it from a $1.5 million basket case into the black within his first 12 months.
In 2004, he was approached by Racing NSW - then known as the Thoroughbred Racing Board - to become its chief executive. He had already accepted a lucrative position at the New Zealand TAB, but the board was adamant that V'landys was its man and convinced him to sign.
Since then, he has become racing's most influential man.
''I disagree with that,'' he says. ''Nah. I think [chairman] John Messara is the equal if not bigger. He's my chairman here now. He is a man driven by passion. I thought I was driven by passion. He's equal. That's a nice thing to say, but I disagree with it. We pale in significance to Gai [Waterhouse].''
Messara is the founder of the Championships, the $18 million carnival to be held over two Saturdays at Royal Randwick next year that will include 10 group 1 races.
''I've seen seven chairmen in 10 years,'' V'landys offers.
Right. How many did you get rid of?
''I haven't got rid of any,'' he fires back. ''I'm very lucky - I've got on with every one of the chairmen. John Messara and I are a team.''
Suggest the Racing NSW board gives him too much autonomy, and V'landys is defensive, punching his way out of the corner as always.
''No,'' he says, bluntly. ''This board is very professional in terms of corporate governance. A lot of times I get blamed for things that I've argued against. There have been many times when things have gone pear-shaped that I argued they would go pear-shaped. But they're the masters. No one will ever know any issue where I didn't agree. You're a team, you're loyal.''
Then he takes a swipe - unprovoked - at the Australian Turf Club.
''That's where the ATC, that's where I feel sorry for Darren [Pearce],'' he says. ''They don't let him be a CEO. They get too involved in the micro. They should be the macro. Darren's got immense ability as an administrator. Let him run the joint, but they don't.''
I point to a lavish, glossy brochure on the table detailing the Championships and ask if this is a move towards Racing NSW taking over the ATC, which has been the street-corner tip for months.
''Not at all,'' he bristles. ''Racing NSW will never run a race club. I'm aware of the rumours. It's always used against us when we are tough about something. 'Oh, you are just trying to take power off us.'
''I want the race club to be autonomous. I want to help them. I got $150 million for the grandstand. We can't run race clubs - we're the regulator. It's a scaremongering tactic used against us by people who think we're too tough.''
V'landys equally dead-bats questions about whether he was the pea to become David Gallop's replacement as NRL chief executive last year.
Asked if he was interested in the position, he says: ''No, not really. It was never offered so it's a hypothetical question. My chairman came to me and asked if I was interested, and I was honest and said no.''
There is a school of thought that V'landys was looking for more money from his next Racing NSW contract, although others say he was genuinely interested in the NRL job.
When we meet in his office at Racing NSW headquarters in the CBD, he shows me his new watch - a phone and camera all in one. ''I have a thing for gadgets,'' he explains.
At home, he has old-school Space Invaders and pinball machines.
''I'm very proud,'' he says. ''I have the highest score in both the pinball and the Space Invaders. My wife beat the high score I had on Space Invaders and I was devastated. I practised for weeks and weeks and I beat her.''
Always fighting. Until he wins.
submitted by Paul Vlandys on 29.08.2005
Photo of my grandfather paul vlandis and me paul nickolas vlandis.Kalokerines kythera.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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