Devon Horse Show Board Ousts President And Chairman

Dec 23, 2014 - 6:44 AM

An emergency Devon Horse Show and Country Fair Inc. board meeting was called on Dec. 22 to oust board president Sarah Coxe Lange and chairman Henry Lafayette Collins III. The meeting, called three weeks prior to a meeting and election scheduled for Jan. 15, has sparked rumors that the Devon Horse Show is moving to a different location.

In a statement to the press, the nine board members who organized the emergency meeting said there has been no discussion of moving the horse show.

“The idea that we, or any of the members of the board of directors, are interested in selling the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair property is completely unfounded,” stated the press release. “We have never participated in, nor heard of, a single conversation about selling and/or moving the show to the western suburbs or anywhere else.”

The statement also points out that the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair Inc. board does not have the authority to sell the property.

In an email calling for the emergency meeting, the nine members of the Devon Country Fair Committee (Gail McCarthy, Karin Maynard, Mimi Killian, Carolyn Capaldi, Beth Wright, Eileen Devine, Dolly Somers, Sandy Shinners and Ann Seidel) explicitly stated the purpose of the meeting was to oust the president and chairman and elect new representation.

Regarding reasons for the ousting, the email stated: “It is believed that the actions called for will, if taken, serve the best interests of the Corporation.”

At the time of publication, the nine board members declined further requests for comment regarding reasons for ousting Lange and Collins, although they did release this statement:

“This was a bilateral, majority decision that new leadership is necessary to move the organization forward in a positive, productive way.

“The community can rest assured that The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is here to stay, IN DEVON and our focus will continue to be supporting Bryn Mawr Hospital and running one of the finest horse shows in the country.”

Rumors most recently circulated regarding the safety of the Devon Horse Show property in Devon, Pa., in late 2013, when plans for a shopping complex called Devon Yard were unveiled. The former Devon Horse Show and Country Fair Inc. president Wade McDevitt, also president of The McDevitt Co., a commercial real estate development company, announced plans to lease the horse show parking lot as overflow parking for the development. McDevitt stepped down after the ensuing controversy, and Lange was elected in December 2013.

Lange has her own ideas as to what spurred her removal from the board. Since being elected president, Lange said she and chairman Collins have focused on decreasing the size of the various boards and committees and trying to get new board members who were involved with the exhibitor side of the horse show.

Lange also set up an endowment for the horse show, a group independent of the horse show called DevInvest. The show saw an 11 percent increase in donations and made a profit of about $200,000 in 2014.     

“I don’t think they like me because I’m a businesswoman. I’m really direct,” Lange said. “I’ve come in and cut the board in half. A lot of people had to go, and that caused ill will, I’m sure.

“I represent change. I represent applied business principles for an organization, and that obviously threatens people,” Lange added.

Lange was replaced as president at the emergency meeting by Richard M. O’Donnell, who previously served as treasurer of the board and ran against Lange for the presidency. Wayne W. Grafton was elected the new chairman.

Manager of the Devon Horse Show, Peter Doubleday, does not count himself among those calling for Lange to be voted out of office.

“I have no problem with Sarah Coxe Lange. I don’t have a problem with where she’s going,” Doubleday said. “She has an agenda, and I think she’s tried very hard to push forward and update and modernize a little bit here and there, and I don’t quite understand where the rest of the gang is coming from.”

But electing a new president does not entirely remove Lange from the Devon leadership picture.

“They’re removing me as president and CEO of Devon Horse Show and Country Fair Inc. I am still the president and CEO of Devon Horse Show and Country Fair Foundation. That’s the entity that owns the land,” Lange said. “So I assume they will try and get rid of me there as well.”

Regardless of her board membership, Lange will still be attending the Devon Horse Show.

“My family has exhibited there since 1896,” said Lange, who owns Willisbrook Farm, a facility for American Saddlebreds in Malvern, Pa. “I’m fourth generation, and my daughter is fifth. We have a barn at Devon. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be there every year exhibiting horses.”

Categories: Horse Shows, News
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