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SBD/Issue 197/Leagues & Governing Bodies
Tony George Steps Down As IRL, IMS CEO, Will Remain Board Member
Published July 1, 2009
|George To Remain On IMS BOD,
Continue Leading Vision Racing Team
IRL NOW ON ITS OWN: ESPN.com's Terry Blount reported the moves yesterday indicate the IRL "will have to make it on its own and become financially viable without extensive financial support from IMS." George's three sisters, who are IMS BOD members, "felt it was time for the IRL to make things work without the monetary pillow from the family fortune of Hulman & Co. and IMS." The racing circuit has not made a profit during its 14-year existence, and Blount wrote this is a "defining moment for the IndyCar Series." George's departure "will cause IRL competitors to question where things are headed." The change "will cause some uncertainty about the future," and it "might even push Danica Patrick closer to a move into NASCAR." Meanwhile, the "surprise" from yesterday was that George did not become IMS Chair and replace his mother, Mari Hulman George, who was "expected to retire" (ESPN.com, 6/30).
NO IMPACT EXPECTED ON SPONSORSHIPS: The INDY STAR's Cavin reports George's departure from IRL is "not expected to have an adverse impact on the series' ability to attract additional sponsorship." Just Marketing Founder & CEO Zak Brown, whose company is an IRL consultant, said, "People aren't that close to the sport, so their questions are more marketing- and commercial-related. ... I don't think Tony George leaving his position has an impact on those questions. He doesn't bring a commercial value, if that makes sense." But Brown called George's departure "unsettling for the industry." He added that sponsors "will be eager to hear" from Belskus. Brown said sponsors will "want to know what are the strategic decisions to make the league profitable." Penske Racing Owner Roger Penske said Belskus and Brighton are "good people and capable people, and they represent the family's interest." Meanwhile, IRL Panther Racing co-Owner John Barnes "does not expect IMS Corp. to reduce its commitment to the league." Barnes: "From the league standpoint, IMS and the IRL are hooked at the hip. Only a fool would believe that's not the case" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/1).
Kalkhoven Says People Will Have To Wait
And See What Happens With IRL
LASTING IMPACT: USA TODAY's Gary Graves notes George oversaw the arrival of NASCAR, F1 and Moto GP motorcycles during his 19 years at IMS, the "outer walls of which are lined with padded SAFER barriers George introduced to racing in 2002 to enhance chances of surviving a hard crash." George "modernized other parts of the century-old facility while retaining many of the original touches that have made the Brickyard a destination for racers, fans and tourists." George's contributions to IMS and the IRL "required a huge financial commitment that ultimately factored most in Tuesday's IMS board power shift." Just Marketing's Brown said, "The league was losing a lot of money, and given that and the world economy there was a lot of concern at [IMS]. At the same time he's (nearly) 50 and has a life away from the league, and he probably felt he has done his job and decided to leave" (USA TODAY, 7/1). FANHOUSE.com's Holly Cain noted George "spearheaded the unification between America's top two open-wheel series last year" (FANHOUSE.com, 6/30).
Bloggers Express Unease For IRL's
Future Without George In Charge