SBD/Issue 173/Sports Industrialists

IMS Corp. Asks Tony George To Devise New Management Plan

George Denies Speed TV Report That Says
He Has Been Ousted By IMSC Board
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. (IMSC) BOD has asked Tony George, the CEO of both the IRL and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to "devise a plan that allows him to focus on the entity that requires the greatest interest," according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. George, who also holds "several positions within the family-owned business," will present his plan to the board "later in the year." George's mother, IMSC Chair Mari Hulman George, said that the IRL "must be a priority in the plan." George yesterday denied a Speed TV story that he had been "ousted by the board, calling it 'inaccurate,'" and Hulman George said that her son "remains in charge of the corporation." George declined to say "how the business will be structured," but noted that "every organization needs efficiency during these difficult economic conditions." George: "I know a lot of people think money grows off these trees, but we're just like everybody else. We're looking at organizational restructuring. How we can become more efficient." Cavin notes the IMSC BOD consists of George, his mother, his three sisters -- Josie, Kathy and Nancy -- and attorney Jack Snyder. Only Tony George "plays an active role in the day-to-day activities of the company" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/28). George during a press conference outside IMS addressed the "allegations" he was asked to leave, saying, "I don't know if they're allegations. I think they're more rumors. No one has asked me to leave. I think that I do what I always do, and that's to try to run the company and the business as we need to and see fit." However, George did admit, "The spending -- this place wakes up every morning and eats money." George: "We spend a lot of money keeping it in the condition we do. Certainly, the (IRL) has in the past required a lot of capital to keep it going when there was two competing series, and a lot of money was spent last year trying to unify" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 5/27). 

ALL IN THE FAMILY: SI.com's Bruce Martin reported it is likely that George will maintain his role with the IRL, while "control of the Speedway will go to another member of the family." Rumors have been "persistent for the past month that a power struggle involving George and his three sisters was taking place." With the recent financial collapse, George's sisters "expressed concern that he had spent much of the family fortune on propping up the IndyCar Series as well as on dramatic changes" to IMS to accommodate F1 (SI.com, 5/27). SI.com's Tim Tuttle notes the family is "intensely private about its business affairs," and it "seems unlikely they would put an outsider in the top job" at the track. That "probably means grooming the next generation for specific jobs" within IMSC, and George "seems likely to continue as IMS CEO until some family member is ready to replace him." But Tuttle adds, "Don't count on that happening anytime soon" (SI.com, 5/28).

FALSE ALARM? In the original report, SPEEDTV.com's Robin Miller cited a source as saying that George's reign as IMS CEO "appears to be over," as he was "voted out of power in a Tuesday night board meeting." The supposed ouster would have come a "couple of weeks after his wife, Laura, was removed from her job" at the track. Miller reported IMS CFO Jeff Belskus and General Counsel Curt Brighton "will run the show until a replacement is hired." Former SMI President & CEO Humpy Wheeler's name has been "making the rounds" as a possible successor to George (SPEEDTV.com, 5/27). Miller said, "My story kind of surprised (George). I think in retrospect they probably wish that they'd have put a story out that basically said, 'You know, Tony's decided he's going to look around and he's got the IRL team and he's got the IRL that he started and he's going to take a step back from the Speedway,' and just make it look real good." Miller added, "I think this is a reaction. I think this is damage control. … I'm not sure there'll ever be a statement about this. Tony just might silently go away" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 5/27).

REVISIONIST HISTORY: In Orlando, Steven Cole noted the SpeedTV.com Web site yesterday at about 3:30pm ET pulled the "Tony George Ousted at IMS" story and replaced it with a "much softer" headline: "Transition Coming at IMS." Meanwhile, Cole wrote IMS "would be crazy not to hire Humpy Wheeler, and place him in a very important leadership role." But if you "want to get rid of Tony George, it makes no sense to do it at a board meeting, which is why this story seemed oddly uncomfortable from the start" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 5/27).

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