Restart of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Matthew Failor drives his dog team down the Susitna River during the Restart of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 4, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The Iditarod Trail Committee announced Rob Urbach as its new CEO on Saturday, replacing Stan Hooley, who resigned to explore other opportunities in December.

The new CEO for the nonprofit responsible for staging the annual sled dog race, will be tasked with overseeing business operations, human resources management, information technology, fundraising and public relations. Urbach will also work closely with the Iditarod Board of Directors, staff and stakeholders to help improve the financial foundation of the race organization. His duties will begin on July 29.

The Colorado resident spent six years as the CEO of USA Triathlon before leaving in 2017 to spend a year and a half as a director at Andra Partners, a buy-side mergers and acquisitions origination firm. Prior to USAT, Urbach spent four years as executive vice president at Octagon, the world’s largest sports marketing and management firm. The businessman graduated with an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Rob embraces our vision of an Iditarod that is committed to the priority of canine care both on and off the trail,” Iditarod Board of Directors President Mike Mills said. “In addition to his extensive credentials, Rob has proven himself to be a nimble and strategic leader and we’re looking forward to Rob taking the helm of the Last Great Race on Earth.”

Urbach’s appointment follows a multi-year period of trouble for the race, including cuts to prize winnings and positive canine drug test results in 2017, and mounting protests opposing the race organized by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the loss longtime sponsor Jack Daniel’s in 2018.

Urbach’s accomplishments at USAT include unprecedented financial success (USAT reached all-time highs in revenue and doubled its endowment while under his guidance) and triathlon’s approval by the NCAA as an emerging women’s sport. At the time of his departure, two schools had established Division I programs and 12 others were in the process of establishing varsity teams. He also established a weekly television show. Urbach was named the Most Influential Person by Inside Triathlon Magazine in 2013.

The Saturday announcement coincided with the opening day for mushers to register for the 48th running of the race. Among the 40 who have signed up, four hail from Fairbanks, including four-time champion Lance Mackey, veterans Jessie Royer and Jeff Deeter and rookie Deke Naaktgeboren. Race registration closes on December 2.

The race will begin March 7, 2020, in downtown Anchorage.

Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.