SBD/November 2, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

IndyCar's Belskus Yet To Finalize Process For Hiring Replacement For Randy Bernard

Belskus this week met with IndyCar teams, sponsors and staff
IndyCar has not finalized a process for finding a new CEO and does not have a timeline for naming a new executive, according to Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President & CEO and the interim CEO of IndyCar. Belskus said the process will involve more outreach to IndyCar stakeholders -- sponsors, teams, drivers and others -- than the search process that resulted in Randy Bernard’s hiring in '10. He has received a few unsolicited resumes this week. He said that the series will look for someone who has experience as a CEO. “We want to find the best person we can find to lead this organization,” Belskus said. “Experience in sports and entertainment is important. Motorsports experience would be a big plus. It’s not a requirement but it would be a big plus.” Belskus this week met with IndyCar teams, sponsors and staff to discuss IMS Corp.’s priorities for next season. The series will stick with the 19-race schedule it released last month and concentrate on growing its fanbase in the future. “We’re spending a lot of time this fall, and it will go into the first quarter of 2013, on strategic planning and coming up with ways to capitalize on (opportunities),” Belskus said. “It’s going to be about creating awareness for fans at the end of the day. Through that awareness, it’s going to be engagement. How do we engage them and expose IndyCar to them?” Belskus said that IMS has only received one offer, from Tony George, to acquire IndyCar. George submitted a proposal Oct. 15 to buy the series for $5M, and claimed to have $25M in backing for the series. But Belskus said, "We’re not considering any (other offers) and we’re not soliciting any.” He later reiterated that the series is not for sale. “We’re excited about the future of IndyCar in this building" (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).

MOVING ON
: The AP's Jenna Fryer noted Belskus in an open letter posted on the IndyCar website "admitted the past week has been challenging and called on fans to 'harness the energy and emotion of this time for the good of the sport we all love.'" Belskus said that he "planned to reach out to 'series stakeholders,' including fans, but wasn't direct when asked what impact the handling of Bernard's departure might have on a series desperate for fans." Belskus said, "It created some uncertainty, and anytime you create uncertainty I don't think that's positive. But I tell you, that we are moving ahead and we are focused on the future and 2013 now" (AP, 11/1). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin writes, "As for how the final days of Bernard's tenure were handled by the Indianapolis-based organization -- there were rumors and denials aplenty, with Bernard finally resigning at an emergency board meeting Sunday evening -- Belskus acknowledged it was handled poorly." Belskus said, "In terms of style points, we could have done better." He would not say if Bernard "met budget goals." Belskus: "We're a private company, and we don't publicly discuss our financial results" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 11/2).

BUYER'S MARKET? USA TODAY's Nate Ryan wrote the "sheen is off big-time auto-racing in many ways, and remaining relevant is a conundrum that faces every series in this country." Ryan: "So how does NASCAR become more relevant? Well, it could buy IndyCar." NASCAR is "trying to lure a younger audience that doesn't think cars are as cool anymore." Acquiring IndyCar "might ameliorate some of those woes." It also would be "labeled heresy by both series' fervent fan bases." Each side "has something the other needs." NASCAR has "savvy leadership, shrewd marketing and the stability of permanent venues." Meanwhile, IndyCar "brings an inherently more advanced product for the digital age and a more diverse lineup" (USA TODAY, 10/31).
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