IndyCar denies getting offer from George to buy series

October 1, 2012

The parent companies of the IndyCar Series are denying a report from a national sports business publication that they are seeking a deal to sell the open-wheel racing series.

The Sports Business Journal is reporting that former Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO and IndyCar founder Tony George has put together an investor group to buy the series from Hulman & Co. and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.

George was ousted as chief of IMS and IndyCar by family members in 2009.

The investor group includes several team owners who compete in the series, including motorsports heavyweights Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske and Michael Andretti. Team owner Kevin Kalkhoven and Zak Brown, owner of Zionsville-based Just Marketing International, a motorsports marketing agency, also are reported to be part of the investor group.

A team spokesman said Chip Ganassi was not available Monday afternoon. Penske declined to comment, and Brown called the report "chatter and speculation."

The newspaper said the group has gone as far as hiring law firm Faegre Baker Daniels LLP to perform due diligence and has approached Hulman & Co. about selling.

It’s unclear what the George-led group has offered, but sources told the newspaper that the group would assume management of IndyCar, which has operated at a loss since its establishment in 1996 as the Indy Racing League, and assume any debts on its books.

Hulman & Co. would retain its majority ownership of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and continue to run the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, according to the report. It also could opt to take a minority stake in the IndyCar series during the negotiations.

George declined to confirm or deny to Sports Business Journal that he had engaged the law firm or put together a group of investors and described the “premise” as “inaccurate.”

In a prepared statement issued Monday, Hulman & Co. and IMS adamantly refuted the report.

“The Izod IndyCar Series is not for sale, and representatives from Hulman & Co. and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. have not received or considered any offers to purchase the series,” they said in a prepared statement. "Further, executive management from both Hulman & Co. and IMSC maintain continuous and open dialogue with IndyCar team owners and numerous issues related to the Izod IndyCar Series, and no IndyCar team owner formally or informally approached either organization about purchasing the Izod IndyCar Series.

Hulman & Co. and IMSC said they remain committed to working with the series and its partners as they prepare for the 2013 season and beyond, the two said in the statement.

“The combination of the return of nearly all the 2012 venues, including all the ovals, the addition of new tracks and the revival of the Triple Crown award make this one of the most exciting schedules in recent memory,” they said.

But the past year was difficult for the series. It experienced double-digit decreases in television viewership, had a race in China canceled and began searching for a presenting sponsor that potentially could replace title sponsor Izod before the apparel brand’s deal ends after the 2015 season.

The series announced a 19-race schedule for 2013 on Sunday.

Any decision to sell the series likely would be made by Mari Hulman George, chairwoman of Hulman & Co.’s board, and mother of Tony, the newspaper said.


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