"Today is a great day for me, my family, our fans and our wonderful sponsors," Petty said in a statement.
Richard Petty Motorsports had been ailing during the 2010 season after the majority owner of RPM, George Gillett Jr., became embroiled in financial problems. Gillett was co-owner of debt-laden Liverpool Football Club that was recently sold over his and co-owner Tom Hick's objections, and Gillett is being sued by a US hedge fund over $117m debt they allege he had mounted up with his investment in LFC. Gillett's holdings in the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey franchise has proved an additional drain.
Petty himself had only a small share of RPM, which was formed from the merger of Petty Enterprises and Gillett-Evernham Motorsports at the start of 2009 to keep both struggling NASCAR operations afloat. This year the seven-times NASCAR champion has appeared little more than a figurehead at the team that carried his name, with the Gillett family in actual control.
The buy-out will put Petty firmly back in control of the team. Brian Moffitt and Robbie Loomis, RPM's vice presidents of marketing and racing operations respectively, will continue in their roles and will now report to Petty himself. The transfer has been "in the works" for several weeks, according to today's reports, while other suggest that Moffitt was first in contact with Medallion as little as three weeks ago as RPM's financial troubles gathered terminal velocity.
VeriFone Systems CEO Douglas Bergeron's DGB Investments is one of the new investors. "With Richard Petty's unmatched name and reputation in the motorsports industry, I know this investment is well-timed to succeed," Bergeron said.
Medallion Financial, which boasts baseball great Hank Aaron and former New York governor Mario Cuomo on its board, is the other key investor in the deal. "Ample working capital has been invested in the company to ensure this great team and legend will not only continue to perform, but will thrive and be back in the winner's circle," said Medallion president Andrew Murstein, an avid sports fan whose family business is based on taxi cabs rather than race cars, the 'medallion' originally referring to taxi licences. "I looked at a lot of sports teams over the years and to me, this is a great brand in sports," he continued, adding: "It's like the Boston Celtics or the New York Yankees."
As previously announced
, the team will field two cars in the 2011 season that will be driven by AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose, rather than four cars as RPM had in 2010. However, Murstein is said to be keen to restore the team's four-car line-up in the future and says he's currently reviewing drivers who will be free agents at the end of the 2011 season, while adding assurances that day-to-day operations would be left in Richard Petty's hands.
"The people that know the most about this business and are the best at it, like Richard Petty, make the decisions," Murstein said. "My role for Richard Petty is to give him the money that he needs and the sponsorship that he needs and stay out of his way."
The current RPM team claimed 4th and fifth place at the final race of this year's season at Homestead, with stand-in driver Aric Almirola coming in just ahead of Allmendinger with the team's strongest result of the year.