Canterbury businessman Mark Stewart has been appointed the new chair of TAB NZ as the wagering giant enters the most crucial period in its history.
Stewart, who has vast experience both as a businessman, director and in sports governance, will lead the seven-person board appointed by Minister of Racing Grant Robertson for a three-year term starting on August 1, the first day of the new racing season.
Outside of his business interests Stewart has had major governance roles in rugby league and football and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2018 for services to sport and the community.
Stewart will head a board consisting of Anna Stove (deputy chair), Bill Birnie, Paul Bittar, Jason Fleming, Wendie Harvey and Raewyn Lovett.
Bittar is the former chief executive of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and has enormous experience in international wagering, which will be crucial because not only is that almost the sole focus of TAB NZ's operations in the post-Messara report era, but the wagering world is changing dynamically.
Bittar lives in Australia and will continue to do so while on the board.
Fleming was New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing's first nominee for the board and is a long-time galloping administrator whose appointment will please the NZTR board at a time when the premier code continues to grow its overall influence and market share.
Harvey is a Hawke's Bay-based lawyer with numerous board positions who is also a New Zealand gambling commissioner while Lovett is also a lawyer, the former chair of Netball NZ, on the board of Sport NZ, and was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to netball.
Interestingly Fleming, Bittar and Birnie are listed as the three code representatives on the board and while their appointments are justified as they are all skilled operators, it would appear both Harness Racing New Zealand and Greyhound Racing NZ didn't get their preferred first nominees for the board appointed.
Robertson thanked the interim board members who are standing down and have helped steer the TAB through not only four name changes but the trickiest time it its history.
The new board was appointed after the minister took advice from an independent selection panel who were pivotal in extending the selection process when they believed initial nominations didn't provide the skills and experience needed to steer the industry.
The new board will be charged with making some industry-changing decisions around joint ventures or the less-likely outsourcing, broadcasting models, the future of retail TAB outlets versus digital gambling, and to manage relationships with not only the codes but overseas betting operators.