The price includes hotel rooms, transportation and food and drinks for several executives from Bezos Academy, LinkedIn and other companies. Derby tickets at Churchill Downs were the biggest single expense, costing just over $80,000.
Greenberg spokesman Kevin Trager said in a statement that the Derby allows the city’s economic development team to showcase “the best of Louisville.”
“We are confident that after seeing all our city has to offer and meeting members of our incredible community, this unique economic development opportunity will lead to continued growth and strengthening of our economy,” Trager said last week.
Greenberg and his wife also hosted a Derby Day luncheon that was attended by several hundred people, according to Trager. The invite list was a who’s who of community leaders and city officials, including Metro Council members, members of the Brown and Bingham families and “mayor staff, spouses, children, family members and friends,” records show. Greenberg spent $15,748 on Mayan Cafe food and $3,417 on flowers, napkins and linens.
The total cost of hosting the Greenberg Derby was higher than last year, when Mayor Greg Fisher spent about $140,000.
The guest list
Unlike Fisher, Greenberg made his guest list public ahead of the primary race in Kentucky. Fisher’s administration refused to identify his Derby guests during his 12-year tenure, arguing it would negatively affect the city’s ability to recruit new businesses. In 2018, the Metro Council voted to allow Louisville’s mayor to keep his derby guests a secret.
On May 2, Greenberg announced that seven executives in various industries had accepted an invitation to the Louisville Derby. Three guests have donated to his recent primary and general election campaigns.
Campaign finance records show that Valerie Bruce, managing director of BBC Studios in Los Angeles, gave $4,000 to Greenberg’s campaigns. Dan Roth, who is vice president and editor-in-chief of Linkedin, gave $3,000 to Greenberg between his two campaigns. Roth’s wife Lisa, who was also one of Greenberg’s guests, donated $4,000. Dan Roth grew up in Louisville and, along with his siblings, recently made a donation to the Trager Family Jewish Community Center renovation project.
Other executives who attended the Derby as guests of Greenberg were:
- Mike George, president of Bezos Academy and wife Beth
- Rob Mills, vice president of unscripted and alternative entertainment for Walt Disney Television
- Donna Orender, CEO of Orender Unlimited and former WNBA President, and wife MG
- TJ Rodgers, founder of Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, and spouse of Valletta
- Ryan Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn and spouse Leigh
Griberg’s office did not say why they decided to invite these guests, but many work in industries that have become a priority for local and state leaders.
For example, Fisher announced last December that the long-vacant downtown Louisville Gardens building would be renovated into sound stages for film, television, music and digital production. The developers, River City Entertainment Group, LLC, are hoping to get incentives from the state to help cover some of the construction costs. Greenberg’s office said work to clean up Thursday Gardens will begin next month.
In 2021, the Kentucky General Assembly revived the state’s film tax credit program to encourage film companies to shoot here. BBC Studios LA has produced shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘Top Gear America’. Mills, meanwhile, oversees the creation and production of reality television for the Disney, ABC and Hulu brands.
Mike George, president of Bezos Academy, was in town in March to announce his first tuition-free preschool in Kentucky. Slated to open in 2025, the Montessori-style preschool program will be located near Jefferson Green and Jefferson’s Landing, affordable housing neighborhoods in Okolona.
While on the campaign trail, Greenberg promised to make universal access to preschool a reality in Louisville.
Donna Orender’s appearance on Greeberg’s Derby guest list could be tied to a long-standing effort by fans and deep-pocketed community leaders to bring a professional basketball team to Louisville. The city hasn’t had a professional basketball team since the Kentucky Colonels disbanded in the mid-1970s.
There is no publicly available information about the plans LinkedIn may have for Louisville or the city’s efforts to attract the company, and Trager did not immediately respond to a question about it.
It wouldn’t be Greenberg’s first foray into the tech world: LEO Weekly obtained emails in February showing that his administration is trying to lure the YouTube creators of “Dude Perfect” to locate a proposed $100 million theme park here.
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