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Indy Racing League appoints new CEO

Bull Riding overseer Randy Bernard hired as latest successor to Tony George at IRL.

Randy Bernard, long-time CEO of Professional Bull Riders Inc, has been named as the new CEO of the Indy Racing League, succeeding Jeff Belskus, who had only recently assumed the role after Tony George departed.

Bernard's hiring was announced by Belskus, who also holds the posts of president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, and will begin his tenure on 1 March.

The 43-year old produced one of the eight Professional Bull Riders events in its inaugural 1994 season while with the marketing and entertainment department of the California Mid-State Fair and 'fell in love with the sport'. He was formally named as PBR's CEO in 1995 and worked with series founders in the succeeding years to develop and expand the brand and events across North America, and increase the popularity of the sport worldwide.

In April 2007, Bernard successfully executed a merger between Professional Bull Riders Inc. and Spire Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, and remained CEO under the new ownership structure. Under his leadership, PBR's 'Built Ford Tough Series' saw regular season attendance increase by twelve per cent in 2009, and ratings with television partner VERSUS increased nearly 30 per cent last year. The PBR has been quick out of the chutes in 2010 with attendance up 23 percent in its first five weeks of competition.

"Randy is the right person at the right time to head the Indy Racing League," Belskus said, "He brings a superb sports marketing and promotion background, proven CEO skills, energy and enthusiasm at a time when the IZOD IndyCar Series is positioned for growth."

Bernard said that for the 15 years he has been the CEO of the PBR, he's been 'blessed to work with such a great sport, and I enjoyed the success that we all shared together', but insisted that he was 'ready to make a change in my life'.

"Josie George was determined that the change should be with the Indy Racing League and, after significant research, I was excited about the opportunity," he noted, "I truly believe I can make a difference with the Indy Racing League, and I see tremendous potential. The IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights have intense action, high-stakes competition, extreme athletes, a diverse international schedule, great sponsors and a very passionate fan base."

The announcement of Bernard's arrival was made at a news conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway attended by members of the IMS board of directors including Nancy George, Josie George and Jack Snyder. IMS chairman Mari Hulman George, who was travelling, and board member Kathi George Conforti, who lives in California, were not in attendance. Bernard thanked the Hulman-George family 'for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of this great tradition'.

"I have had the opportunity to meet with Ms George, Josie, Nancy, Kathi, Jack Snyder and Jeff Belskus several times and really look forward to sharing their vision," he continued, "I also look forward to working with Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart. They both are highly regarded, and I am confident we will make a great team."

George, who has served as chairman of the family-controlled corporation since 1990, praised Bernard's selection.

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