When Bayne Welker joins the Fasig-Tipton management team early next year, he'll be changing his role in the Thoroughbred auction business. In recent years, he's become a leader among sale consignors. He is the president of the Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association, and he also serves as the director of public sales and stallion marketing for Mill Ridge Farm.
Welker discussed his new career direction Nov. 20.
The Blood-Horse: Why are you taking the Fasig-Tipton job?
Bayne Welker: "I've been involved in many industry initiatives over the past several years and have been very passionate about that. I think it's an opportunity to be able to put something back into the industry and give back to everybody. It's something that I just feel very strongly about. Given the opportunity and the resources that are there at Fasig-Tipton right now, I'm certainly sold on their endeavor and think it can make a difference."
When exactly do you start?
When they came to me with the offer, I told them I consider the (Keeneland) January sale to be the end of the sales season even though it's the beginning of a new year. In all fairness to Mill Ridge, I wanted to get them through the end of the sales season. I wanted to be able to take our clients through, get that done, and get that behind us. That will allow me to make the transition with whoever will fill this seat."
As an account executive at Fasig-Tipton, what will you be doing?
"What it means is I'll be working directly in the sales department end. What I think you will see is that most of those guys who have been director of one sale or another sale now will all be considered account executives and will have constant contact with certain clientele."
What exactly will you be responsible for?
"At this point in time, I don't know. There are some meetings scheduled in the upcoming weeks that are going to identify more of this and more of the strategy."
Do you have any ideas about what sale companies can do for consignors?
"I sure do. Being president of the CBA and having almost a 24/7 dialog with just about every major consignor out there, I think I bring to the table a lot of things, and I think that's what they felt was attractive when they approached me, that I did bring that perspective to the table. I have managed a farm, owned my own sales agency, and run Mill Ridge's sales agency, so I'm pretty diversified. With my short-lived legislative experience as well as the Sales Integrity Task Force and different issues I've been a part of, they looked at me as somebody who would have a good, open line of communication with consignors and sellers."
Could you be more specific?
"Here's the thing, technology is always changing. The way we vet horses is always changing. The needs of the consignor and seller have constantly changed since the implementation of the repository system. The whole setup of the way an auction used to be has changed dramatically in the last 15 or 20 years, and it's going to continue to do so.
Technology moves forward. We have Internet capabilities to view radiographs and as our lines of communication become faster, I think it's going to be a very, very changing market. What they were hoping to find was somebody who has had a hand in it and has a good rapport with the people who are still in it. That allows them to be nimble enough to make changes and to strategize and put a plan in place that is going to meet the needs of both buyer and seller. There always needs to be a good line of communication between sellers and the sales companies about what sellers' needs are.
"Another thing you have to remember is we're raising a crop of horses each year, and everybody's crop is not going to be as good from year to year as in other years. It's imperative that you (as a sale company executive) have good, open lines of communication with the people that you are representing to know where they are going to be and what you can expect from year to year."
What are you initial impressions of Fasig-Tipton?
"There is a little bit of buzz out there. and there is a hope that some good, positive change is on the horizon -- that we're going to be able to do some things that are going to maybe not be the norm, to be able to cater to the buyers and create an experience that is enjoyable."
How is the next year going to be for the Thoroughbred sales?
"We're in tough times economically all the way around the world. We used to be bolstered through the November sales by foreign monies, but much of that is not there anymore because the whole world is feeling an economic pinch. There is certainly going to be some tightening up. I think those that aren't too leveraged or aren't hanging out there with a lot of high expenses right now can certainly weather the storm. Those that get through it certainly are going to be stronger for it and the market is going to be stronger for it.
"We've all said all along we're producing too much - too many over-bred mares -- and we just wondered when the bubble was going to burst. It's not much unlike the housing market, where as long as prices continued to escalate and people continued to make money, you were going to continue to breed and continue to borrow and put more back into the market. It's a market like any other market; it can only hold so much. We've certainly reached the saturation point and then, when you get a more or less worldwide recession, it takes its toll. Just like the stock market being driven down from 14,000 to 8,000, our market has gone from $300 million back down to half that.
"For the most part, horses aren't something that everybody has to have unless you make your living with them. When people start to draw in and tighten up their budgets and start to look at their businesses and their income streams, certainly this market is going to be affected. But like anything else, it will come out, and when it does come out, it will be stronger for those who hang on and were pretty fiscally sound going into it."
What about your CBA presidency?
"My term was getting ready to end at the end of January. I had pretty much told them earlier in the year that I dedicated three years and put a lot into it and it was time for me to probably step aside and let somebody else take the reins. I will probably finish out that term. If I have to resign before the end of January, it will be a very, very short period of time that Mark Taylor, the vice president, will step up in that capacity."
What do you think the CBA has accomplished during your tenure?
"It's an organization that, I think, certainly was dearly needed and that every consignor has appreciated being a part of. Our focuses have not been broad, but have been narrowed specifically to the auction process and scene. The whole thing has become very dynamic over the years and a lot of changes have come and a lot of changes are on the horizon.
"What it has done is bring everybody to the table and let them talk about the issues and constructively discuss them instead of just one person going to a sales director or a sales company and saying, ‘Look, this is a problem we need to have changed,' and then kind of take a straw poll among other consignors to get things done. It gives us a unified voice not only through legislative actions, but through the sales companies. And there are some other initiatives that we are working on. I think it's given us a great way to have an educational platform to work towards trying to educate the new buyer, which will continue and will always be the mantra of the CBA."