Prominent Richmond businessman and former Thoroughbred owner and breeder Stuart C. Siegel has been appointed to the Virginia Racing Commission by out-going Governor Tim Kaine. Siegel raced 1988 Cicada Stakes winner Turn To Money among others.

Siegel (seen here shaking hands with Governor Kaine), who raced and bred horses at Running Cedar Farm in Goochland, has served as the chairman of the board of S&K Menswear since 1977 and is the former chief executive officer. The forty-two-year-old discount men’s wear company which was founded by Siegel’s father and uncle, filed for Chapter 11 protection in February. The company is closing its retail outlets and plans to continue its business on the Internet.

A U.S. bankruptcy court gave the company permission to begin liquidating its assets at 105 locations and “going-out-of-business” sales began last May according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.

“This is a very difficult time for me and everyone associated with S&K,” Siegel told the newspaper at that time. “I am proud of our people and all that we’ve accomplished.”

“This is a convergence of a bank in trouble, a slow retail environment, and the worst economy in our 40-plus-year history,” Siegel said. “In any other time, this would be a temporary slowdown in business. We have been through recessions before and survived them, but the combination of those factors made this an impossible task.”

S&K was created in 1967 by I.J. “Hip” Siegel and his brother-in-law, Abe Kaminsky, who bought end-of-the-season men’s suits from retailers and sold the clothing from the back of the family station wagon.

The pair quickly opened a store on West Main Street in downtown Richmond, which became the cornerstone for a chain of discount men’s clothing stores that eventually operated more than 230 stores in 26 states.

The retailer filed for bankruptcy protection in February. S&K had closed 78 stores since last summer and continued shuttering 30 locations since the filing.

Early in the bankruptcy case, the company had some successes. It was able to sell off its corporate headquarters building, store and distribution center off West Broad Street for $5.8 million. In March, it paid off most of its debts.

The company’s profitability peaked in 1999, but had since had difficulty competing with large big-box retailers in a marketplace increasingly focused on casual clothing. In that same year, the all-purpose Stuart C. Siegel Center opened at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Siegel, considered a community activist by many, is the past Chairman and current member of the Board of Directors of the Richmond SPCA and he also serves as a director of SunTrust Banks Central Board in Richmond.

Siegel served briefly as a Virginia racing commissioner on one other occasion when he was appointed by Governor Doug Wilder, a Demorcrat. He was replaced by Governor George Allen, a Republican, after 45 days.

(Editor’s note: I’ve known Stuart Siegel for some twenty-years and, for whatever it’s worth, I respect his business acumen and knowledge of our industry. He is quickly getting up to speed on the most current nuances such as source market fees and disputes with various ADW companies, and he will make an excellent Virginia racing commissioner if given the chance. Personally, I will be very disappointed if Governor-elect McDonnell replaces Siegel when he takes office in January. All members of the VRC serve “at the pleasure” of the Governor and can be replaced at any time.)