Mike Jeannot, president of Meadows Racing for The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, died Friday, his family confirmed. He was 61 and had been suffering from liver cancer.
"The entire Meadows family is saddened by the passing of Mike,” said Bill Paulos, principal of Cannery Casino Resorts, which owns and operates The Meadows. "His enthusiasm for his work, combined with his genuine and warm personality, made him a special member of our team.Mike's presence will be sorely missed.We will continue to keep the Jeannot family in our prayers in the days and weeks to come.”
Jeannot had served as Meadows Racing president since 2009 after serving the track in a variety of positions almost continuously since 1991. Among his roles were director of OTB operations, vice president of operations, and vice president of government relations. In that latter capacity, he was influential in the passage by the Pennsylvania Legislature of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act of 2004, which permitted alternative gaming to commence in the Commonwealth and helped revitalize the state's horse racing industry.
During his years at the helm, Jeannot elevated The Meadows to one of the premier harness tracks in North America by expanding its phone-account wagering and simulcast operations and introducing such cutting-edge options as interactive account wagering technologies. Many of his major accomplishments came through regular collaboration with a number of key organizations. For example, he worked with the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission, which oversees the sport in the Commonwealth, on such important matters as updating and refining The Meadows' wagering format and ensuring proper regulation.
In an e-mail to track personnel, George Crawford, executive secretary of the commission who previously served as the commission's track manager at The Meadows, observed: "Mike was more than just someone you worked with every day. He was someone who offered to his friends and colleagues a part of himself. Mike gave his time, energy and talents to ensure that what you did working together at the Meadows was the best anyone could offer.”
Yet another of his successes was strengthening the track's relationship with the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA), which represents horsemen and horsewomen. Through that healthy relationship, The Meadows and the MSOA cooperate on many projects and events, including "Fan Appreciation Days” and the production and distribution of Meadows Live!
"Mike understood the perspective of both management and horsemen from all his years here,” said Kim Hankins, MSOA executive director. "He was a very fair man, honest and to the point, so we knew where we stood. At the same time, he understood the things that we needed. We're deeply saddened by his passing.”
Although his ailment was diagnosed months ago, his commitment to his job was such that he continued to work full days through the end of 2013.
A native of Kenosha, WI, he was graduated from the University of Wisconsin and began his career in the food industry, first as a pastry chef and later as an executive with Lawry's The Prime Rib in Chicago and Dallas. He shifted to racing when he accepted a position with Inter-Track Partners, a consortium of Illinois tracks.
A resident of Moon Township, Pa., he is survived by his wife, Jo, and their sons Christopher of Manchester, NH and Benjamin.
The Meadows began its card Friday evening with a moment of silence in Jeannot's memory, with a fuller tribute planned for next week. Arrangements are pending and will be announced when they are completed. (The Meadows)