4 October 2009
Gillett: Saudi group could own small piece of RPM
George Gillett said Saturday that a Saudi Arabian organisation will never own majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports, but he did acknowledge that a clause in a recent agreement with Prince Faisal's F6 Group opens the door for the group to purchase a small interest in the race team.
In a press conference at Kansas Speedway designed to correct misinformation that has been reported about his discussions with Faisal's group, Gillett also indicated that RPM's driver lineup for 2010 has not been settled completely and that the team could field three teams instead of four next year.
Gillett recently met with Faisal in England, where the focus of their discussion involved the Liverpool soccer team of the English Premier League in which Gillett shares ownership with Tom Hicks, owner of Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers. In concert with the F6 group, Gillett hopes to bring Liverpool Academy soccer schools to the Middle East and North Africa.
"Out of that came social conversation with regard to those folks' interest (in) and love of speed," Gillett explained. "Come to find out that the particular individuals that we were talking to are advisers to the (Saudi) King in terms of overall sports in their particular country. They happen to have the rights to Formula One offshore boat racing. They conduct those races. So it was natural for us to talk about stock-car racing."
Gillett indicated that a perennial problem in the ownership of a NASCAR team involves what to do with the excess inventory of cars a team accumulates throughout the course of a season. Bringing stock-car racing to the Middle East might help solve that problem.
"In the midst of the conversations, the light went on, and I said, 'My goodness, what an opportunity this might be, if we could create a development series in the Middle East for stock cars,'" Gillett said. "And that's what happened. And we have had extended conversations now about developing a race series. There are several extraordinarily good road (courses) there, but they've actually identified 14 sites -- or more -- in the Middle East where you might put an oval track or two -- or 14.
"So that was the genesis of the conversation. This past weekend I was with the lead principal of that group (Faisal). In the process of our conversation, we signed a confidentiality agreement, which is very standard corporate procedure. We signed … with regard to keeping matters confidential, with regard to anything we discussed about our cars or engines, and so forth and so on.
"In the midst of that conversation, it became clear that we should have a line interest, i.e., if they had an interest in buying a small -- 'un poquito' -- small interest in RPM. Majority? Heck, no. A small interest … We could have complete and open discussions. There would be no issues with regard to confidentiality, and that's what happened.
"There've been no negotiations, no discussions of value, no discussions of anything. It was a very early conversation. Somehow, somebody got the story and completely distorted it. So that is the story. I come here today a man with a clean conscience, and potentially a very attractive partner (Faisal). If he or they became small investors with us, I can't imagine it would be anything but positive for the sport."
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