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Takeover rumours persist despite denials

Rumours continue to swirl that a group of team owners has presented a buy-out bid for the IndyCar Series, despite denials from the current rights owners.
Speculation that the IndyCar Series might be on the verge of being bought out by an investment group consisting of a number of current team owners has once again been denied by the current owners.

“The IZOD IndyCar Series is not for sale,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and CEO Jeff Belskus said in a statement on Tuesday. "Representatives from Hulman & Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation have not received or considered any offers to purchase the series."

The statement follows a report published on Monday in the Sports Business Journal that said the board of Hulman & Company - the current owners of the IndyCar Series - were actively considering a definite proposal from an investor group headed by Tony George, former head of the Indy Racing League, a previous CEO of IMS and a current co-owner of Ed Carpenter Racing.

The group fronted by George is reported to consist of Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske, Michael Andretti and Kevin Kalkhoven (co-owner of KV Racing Technology). None of the owners were returning media calls on the matter after the story broke at the weekend. George himself has refused to confirm or deny the rumours of a takeover bid, merely saying that the "premise" was "inaccurate". He is believed to have tried an early buy-out attempt in 2010.

SBJ's sources suggest that the offer from the group would result in the group taking over the running of the series and assuming any outstanding debts, while Hulman & Company would retain its majority stake and management of the IMS venue. Any decision on whether to sell would come from the board's chairwoman, Mari Hulman George, who controls the majority of the voting interest. The board also includes her four children, including Tony George.

The series made a loss in 2012 after a series of setbacks in the last 12 months, including the last-minute cancellation of a lucrative round in China; a cooling of the financial support from title sponsor IZOD; the loss of the series' most bankable star Danica Patrick to NASCAR; the death of popular two-time Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon at the end of 2011; and ongoing below-expectation spectator attendance at events.

Most crucially this has resulted in a double-digit drop in year-on-year audience viewing figures on television. The 2012 season finale at Fontana attracted only 250,000 viewers in the US, a 0.2-rating on the niche NBC Sports cable channel, despite being widely praised as one of the most tense and thrilling motor races of the year in any championship.

This has led to speculation in the media that the series cannot be saved and is no longer viable. Instead, it might have to consider scaling back operations and perhaps become a one-race championship by staging just the world-famous Indianapolis 500 in future - since it appears that many casual fans in the US already barely even register that other IndyCar races are available during the rest of the year.

Such a suggestion is not said to be part of the George-led buyout proposal. However, the SBJ story did state that motorsports marketer Zak Brown would be part of the investor group and would likely take over the management of the series if the bid were successful - which would mean the ousting of current series CEO Randy Bernard who was brought in to replace George in 2010 with a brief to build up the popularity of the championship.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Indy Racing League. 20-21 June 2009. Iowa Corn 250.  Iowa Speedway. Newton, Iowa USA. Tony George and Ed Carpenter.
Indy Racing League. 9-10 May 2008. Indy 500 Practice and Pole day. Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indianapolis, Indiana. Tony George.
Mari Hulman George at Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Ron Mulqueeney for IndyCar Media)
Randy Bernard at the announcement of the IndyCar Challenge. [Photo Credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Tony George, Homestead Open Testing [Pic credit: IndyCar Media]
Scott Dixon Road America
Scott Dixon - Chip Ganassi Indy Car [credit: IndyCar TV Twitter]
Will Power Texas
Charlie Kimball
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones feature
IndyCar, Dallara 2018 chassis, [Credit: IndyCar]
Graham Rahal Detroit celebration
Detroit IndyCar race start
Detroit IndyCar Andretti RHR

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XYZ - Unregistered

October 03, 2012 12:31 PM

OMG - here we go again with drama in open wheel racing in the USA. Are they trying to commit suicide just when it was getting good again. And it seems to be Tony George causing the crap. He almost killed open wheel racing in America once before and now he seems to be ready to have another go!

Maxx - Unregistered

October 03, 2012 6:01 PM

This sounds so ridiculous I almost believe it. A group of owners who took Cart, which was once almost as popular as Nascar, and the guy who started a race series that cost his family hundreds of millions of dollars to keep afloat want to try again? Don't downplay the thought of the powers at Nascar, and SMI putting out bad rumors about Indy Car. Also, don't forget that the horrible 10 year TV contract was another one of the great things given to the series by Tony George.

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