In a move that triggered acrimony and rumor, the Devon Horse Show and County Fair has removed its board chairman and its president and CEO.
The ousted CEO, Sarah Coxe Lange, called the action a “hostile takeover” in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. Chairman Henry Lafayette Collins III was also forced out during a meeting late Monday.
The episode cast a pall over the organization, whose eponymous horse show is billed as the largest and oldest outdoor, multi-breed, equestrian competition in the country. The show dates to 1896, and has been in Devon throughout, according to new chairman Wayne Grafton.
Multiple news outlets reported rumors that the move to replace Coxe Lange and Collins may have been motivated by those angling to relocate the Devon Horse Show from its traditional Main Line home. Coxe Lange substantiated those rumors when she told Mainline Media News, “We’ve lost the battle for Devon.”
Grafton, however, disputed that claim in an interview Wednesday.
“The Devon Horse Show board has never even had a discussion about moving the show,” Grafton said. “Why anyone would say that is beyond us. It’s simply malicious.”
Complaints were lodged about Coxe Lange and Collins, Grafton said, but he declined to detail the nature of those accusations. He says those allegations, not the future location of the horse show, drove the board’s decision. Treasurer Richard O’Donnell replaces Coxe Lange as president and CEO.
There was also controversy about the timing of the meeting. Coxe Lange and Collins were up for re-election at the board’s annual meeting on Jan. 15. Grafton said the annual meeting typically coincides with the show’s yearly donation to Bryn Mawr Hospital. Coxe Lange and Collins did not convene the annual meeting during that time, Grafton said, which is why the board called a special meeting in late December.