Monday, December 30, 2013

Money cause of Houghton departure

RENO, Nev. ( & KRNV) -- A major change in leadership is taking place at the Reno Air Races. On Monday, the event's Board of Directors announced the departure of its longtime President and CEO Mike Houghton.  

Houghton had been with the event since 1998. Joey Scolari, who spoke for the board, said this restructuring was done to cut costs. It is the latest change for the organization that has seen restructuring of its board, marketing teams and staff members over the past year.

The changes have been made to offset a nearly $3 million spike in operating costs. The increase is primarily driven by insurance costs following a 2011 crash at the event. Scolari would not confirm Houghton's salary, other than to say Houghton was the highest paid staff member. Sources say his salary was in the six figures.

Scolari was on the board when Houghton first joined the organization more than a decade ago. He said Houghton took the event to another level changing the food, the air show and the air racers.

"We're out of money. We just had to start cutting it back. We cut the staff back a day a week and we just need to get it down so we can have the air races," Scolari said.

Scolari said Dave Wilbern will be running the day-to-day operations while the Board, including Chairman Mike Majors, will be running the event until a new leader is selected.


From the Reno Air Racing Association:

In its ongoing effort to revise and evolve its organizational structure and business model to ensure long-term sustainability, the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) announced today the departure of its president & CEO Mike Houghton. The recently restructured board of directors cited recent changes in the governance of the organization and input from key stakeholders that emphasized a need to restructure the day-to-day operations in light of the financial challenges facing RARA as reasons behind the departure.

“Collectively, we would like to express our gratitude to Mike for his leadership and professionalism over the last 15 years,” said Mike Major, chairman of the RARA board of directors. “Mike has helped to guide this organization through some very significant challenges and some great successes. This is an extremely difficult decision but, in light of current circumstances and financial restraints, we felt that it was in the best interest of the Air Races to further reduce expenditures and streamline our efforts toward long-term viability.”

Even as the National Championship Air Races, the only event of its kind in the world, prepares to celebrate 51 years in 2014, the event continues to grapple with the financial challenges left in the wake of the 2011 tragedy, with costs having since quadrupled. Recently, RARA announced that it had revised its organizational bylaws and had dramatically restructured its board of directors to allow for more efficient and effective decision-making and an even stronger emphasis on sponsorships, coalition building and fundraising. Going forward, RARA’s board of directors will fulfill the CEO roles and responsibilities.

“Operating costs alone have risen by nearly $3 million in the last two years, driven primarily by insurance, but this situation has forced us to really step back and take a look at how this event is run, redirecting and streamlining our efforts to increase sponsorships and create a more dynamic fan experience,” added Major. “Our foremost priority as a board is to keep the Reno Air Races tradition alive for another 50 years. Mike has been a friend and mentor to those of us in the air race family for many years. We appreciate the dedication Mike has given the organization and the community and wish him the very best of luck going forward.”

For more information on the Reno National Championship Air Races, visit or call 775-972-6663.