Penske Corp., one of the most successful companies in racing, is acquiring Hulman & Co., owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar series the Terre Haute-based company owns.
The move comes one year—almost to the day—after the death of Mari Hulman George, the only daughter of Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr., who bought the dilapidated track for $750,000 in 1945, three years after inheriting his family fortune.
And it comes six months after Hulman & Co. announced it had sold its iconic Clabber Girl Corp. for $80 million to concentrate on motorsports and entertainment, which officials then called the company’s “core focus.”
Hulman & Co. Chairman Tony George—the son of Mari Hulman George—and CEO Mark Miles have scheduled an 11 a.m. press conference with Penske founder and Chairman Roger Penske at the speedway.
A Penske subsidiary—Penske Entertainment Corp.—will own the speedway, the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Productions. The deal is expected to close in January, according to a document of message points sent to IndyCar teams on Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
“We have found the ideal steward of the company and its iconic assets,” the document states. “Penske Corporation—with its 64,000-plus employees and more than $32 billion in consolidated revenue—will bring tremendous energy, leadership and resources to IMS, IndyCar and IMSP.”
The document says Hulman & Co. has been exploring its options—including a sale—for several years, although officials have long denied that.
Penske—one of the most influential companies in the history of auto racing—will become just the fourth owner of the iconic track would take over a series that many believe is on the upswing after many years of struggle.
It’s headed into the second year of a three-year media rights deal with NBC Sports Group designed to increase its major media exposure. The network has trumpeted viewership gains in the 2019 season, in which all races were streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, in addition to being broadcast through traditional channels.
Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, the Team Penske subsidiary of Penske Corp. made its debut in 1966 and has been heavily involved in nearly all major types of auto racing, including open-wheel, stock car, sports car and touring car competition. It has won the Indy 500 18 times and has more than 200 race victories overall, 260 poles and 15 national championships.
In 2019, all three Team Penske IndyCar Series drivers—Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power—won races. Pagenaud won this year’s Indy 500 and Newgarden captured his second career series championship behind a series-leading four wins.
It was not immediately clear how owning the Speedway and IndyCar would affect Penske’s competitive future in the series.
Mari Hulman George died Nov. 3, 2018, at 83. She had served in various leadership roles at the track, including as chairman emeritus of the IMS board before she died.
In addition to Tony George, George had three daughters—Nancy George, Josie George and Kathi George-Conforti—who have all been involved with the business in some way.
The relationships among the four children haven’t always been harmonious, which fueled speculation prior to the 100th running that discord or estate-tax issues might trigger a sale of the Speedway.
But sources close to the family told IBJ then that much of the friction had been quelled. Tony George, who had been fired in 2009 as chief of the Speedway and IndyCar Series by his mother and three sisters—and later resigned from the Hulman & Co. board—has since rejoined the board and then became its chairman.
During the anniversary festivities leading up to the 100th running, the family appeared poised and in good shape to lead the Indianapolis Motor Speedway into the next era.
Miles told IBJ in 2016 that the family was not interested in selling the company or any part of it. Any rumors of a potential sale were “complete nonsense.”
“That’s all there is to it,” Miles said.
But the statement obtained by the AP says, “For a number of years, the Hulman & Company management and board have engaged outside advisers and experts to consider the full range of strategic options available. Ultimately, it was decided to focus on the possible sale of the company and finding a buyer that would be the best steward of the company and its iconic assets.”
The document states Penske Corp. approached the Hulman board in the fall about the purchase.
Longtime IndyCar owner Chip Ganassi praised the deal.
“I think this is good,” Ganassi told AP. “It’s really good. It’s great. The place is going to be run like a business.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.