May 18, 2022

Brisnet at 50 Part 3: Acquisition and Expansion

Neon Nights is the theme of Saturday's Downs After Dark program
Churchill Downs (Photo by Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

Churchill Downs did exactly what they said they were going to do from the outset. It has blossomed and has been extremely successful.

Happy Broadbent

When a family-run business is acquired by a large corporation, there are bound to be challenges, adjustments, and a learning curve moving forward. Such was the case for Brisnet.com, which, after 36 years as a private entity, became the property of Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) on June 12, 2007.

“For me personally, it was very emotional,” said Happy Broadbent, son of Brisnet.com founder Richard F. Broadbent III. “Going from making your own decisions in a family business to working in a corporate environment was going to be challenging. But I always knew that if we continued to put out a good product, our customers would keep buying and betting with us.”

Reflections

Broadbent looks back on the early days of CDI’s ownership and is delighted with how the transition worked out and how the new proprietors transformed the business.

“Keeping our team in place was my number one goal and assuring them that Churchill Downs was the right company to acquire our business,” Broadbent said. “That has been my biggest accomplishment in my over 14 years, but the credit goes to the leadership of Churchill Downs since 2007. This company has given our team so many opportunities in advancement within the organization, learning new technologies and ways to increase the careers of so many.

The Twin Spires (Photo by Coady Photography)

“Churchill Downs did exactly what they said they were going to do from the outset,” he added. “It has blossomed and has been extremely successful.”

Customer loyalty, Broadbent is quick to acknowledge, is one trait that has prevailed both before and after the company’s acquisition by CDI.

“Our customers are the backbone of our business and we are all grateful for them believing in our products and technology,” he said. “For example, Taylor Made Farm started with us from their beginning and they have been extremely loyal. I feel like I’ve been part of the Taylor Made team, and to see them grow to be what they are today has been incredibly fulfilling.

“On any major race day, I look forward to getting a call from another longtime customer, John Stevo from Chicago, who started buying handicapping data in the late 1980s,” he added. “To hear his voice, to catch up and maybe pick a few winners, always brings a smile to my face.”

TwinSpires.com has grown exponentially since acquiring Brisbet and the other AmericaTAB platforms in the 2007 deal. CDI later purchased Youbet.com and United Tote in 2010 and BetAmerica in 2017.

CDI’s investment after buying Youbet included a $2 million-plus remodel of the Brisnet offices in Lexington, and the conversion of one floor into a state-of-the-art call center. The grand opening of the call center in 2011 was attended by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and other state leaders.

“Bob Evans (then the Churchill Downs CEO) said he wanted our customers to talk to Kentuckians when they called in,” Broadbent said. “And hiring Shirl McConville to lead our call center was one of my best hires ever.”

Innovation & Integration

TwinSpires took in more than $1.8 billion in horse racing wagers in 2020, and Broadbent believes the incorporation of Brisnet data into that and other platforms has played a key role in that tremendous growth.

“Providing free Brisnet past performances to players wagering on their favorite tracks has been very valuable to our players,” he said. “If you’re using your computer, a tablet, or a phone, that statistical Brisnet information provided throughout gives the customer an edge. No other advance deposit wagering platform can offer the information like TwinSpires has done in a user-friendly format.”

As any good manager will tell you, an organization is only as good as the people who work for it. Broadbent is effusive in praise of colleagues he’s worked with for decades, as well as CDI’s corporate team.

“I have learned so much working for Churchill Downs as a public company, but the number one reason I’m here are the people that I work with every day,” he said. “It’s the only business I’ve known, but working with such great people and a terrific company has been fulfilling.

“(Director of research) Becky Seabrook, who taught me so much about the importance of putting out accurate information since the first day I started in 1986, I still work with her daily and she’s been here for over 42 years — so loyal.

“Our Twinspires ADW business has been a huge part of our success, but our smart leadership team, starting with Bob Evans and now Bill Carstanjen along with Bill Mudd, have been brilliant doing the right thing for Churchill Downs. Going from just being a racing company to a casino, sports betting, and entertainment business has been the right move.”

Indeed, Broadbent is adamant that the company wouldn’t be where it is today if not for CDI.

I get asked, if our family still owned the company today, could we have grown it like Churchill Downs has. The simple answer is: No way,”

Happy Broadbent

“I get asked, if our family still owned the company today, could we have grown it like Churchill Downs has. The simple answer is: No way,” Broadbent said emphatically. “The amount of money and resources Churchill Downs has put in this business is staggering, and all the incredible developers that have helped get us there to be the top advance deposit wagering company.

The company Richard F. Broadbent III founded has evolved into a business the 34-year-old entrepreneur might not have imagined when he started it a half-century ago, but perhaps didn’t come as a total surprise to someone with such an innovative mind who was always looking ahead.

Brisnet.com founder Richard F. Broadbent III

“I look back at what my dad started 50 years ago — it’s fascinating to think we had customers dialing into our mainframe computer systems in the mid-1970s – and now today with what we all do with the internet,” Happy Broadbent said. “He was a visionary, a pioneer who computerized the horse industry.

“Long after his death in 2010, many people in our industry still come up and say how brilliant and smart he was. I am so grateful to have learned so much from him and the opportunity Churchill Downs has given me to carry on the company to what it is today.

“Every morning that I get to walk into the same building to go to work for over 36 years, I think about how fortunate I’ve been to work with some amazing people and a great company. I have been truly blessed, as my dad would say a lot in his later years.

“For me, it’s been quite a journey from the days of working the farm, which I still lean on today, to where I have gotten now. It has truly been an amazing ride, a lot of hard work, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.”

He was a visionary, a pioneer who computerized the horse industry.

Happy Broadbent

HANSON: Brisnet at 50 Part 1: The beginnings

HANSON: Brisnet at 50 Part 2: Survival and Growth

HANSON: Brisnet at 50: The Queen’s Arrival