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‘Get an education, learn, and take a few risks’: Gordon Ford College of Business hosts CEO of Churchill Downs

Molly Dobberstein

The Gordon Ford College of business hosted William Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc., to speak on the company overviews as part of the Hays Watkins guest CEO lecture series.

Craig Browning is a WKU Alumni and is currently serving on the executive committee and board of directors for the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation as well as a member of the Gord Ford College of business advisory council. Browning introduced Carstanjen to the audience. 

“This is a gentleman that joined CDI in 2005 and here we are in 2023, he has a long history and a long track record with this organization in a number of different positions which has set him up to be successful as a CEO,” Browning said. 

As the company moves closer to the 150th Kentucky Derby, many things are changing. CDI owns 27 casinos and racing properties across over 13 states. They are currently over a billion dollars in active construction and are continuing to develop their business. 

The brand new Derby City Gaming Downtown plans to open next week on Dec. 6. This hotel was a $90 million project, with its sole purpose being about community. 

“This is about investing in our community, after COVID and Breonna Taylor, we have got to invest in our hometown. We have got to take risks in our hometown, we can not have a Kentucky Derby if we are from Michigan,” Carstanjen said. “We have got to be a great city, and Louisville is our city. Louisville needs investment. We wanted to do something for our hometown.” 

Carstanjen ended his lecture on risks. He explained that taking risks and actively searching for new opportunities helps you in exploring career goals.

“I have taken risks, I have moved my family a couple of times because I wanted to have opportunities,” Carstanjen said. 

Throughout his 18 year career at Churchill Downs, Carstanjen has achieved many goals not only for himself, but for the company. He attributes his success to his education and taking chances. 

“Get an education, learn, and take a few risks,” Carstanjen said. 

News reporter Carrington Coppinger can be reached at [email protected]


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