A Tony George-led group completed its due diligence and within the last week submitted a financial offer to Hulman & Co. for the IndyCar Series, according to sources familiar with the matter. The offer to the privately-held company, which also owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway, included a seven-figure cash proposal to take over management and assume future losses for the series, which reportedly lost $7M this year. George did not return calls seeking comment. A Hulman & Co. spokesman said, "We're not going to confirm or deny what we get because we get unsolicited proposals all the time. The series is not for sale." George has hired the Midwest-based law firm Faegre Baker Daniels and approached IndyCar team owners, including Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske, Michael Andretti and Kevin Kalkhoven, as well as motorsports marketer Zak Brown about investing in the acquisition of the series. The takeover proposal comes four years after the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series merged, ending 12 years of a split between the two U.S. open-wheel racing series. George brokered that deal in '08 and paid $40M to create a unified IndyCar Series. He resigned a year later after the series fell under financial pressure in the wake of the recession. Randy Bernard, the former head of the PBR, replaced him in '10.
Leagues and Governing Bodies
On what should have been opening day of the '12-13 NHL regular season, the league and the NHLPA "remained locked in a familiar stalemate with no end in sight," according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. Although the two sides "met for the second straight day of negotiations Thursday, the double-session dealt only with secondary issues such as free agency and drug testing." They "didn't make much headway in those areas, either." There was "no discussion of the core economic issues, nor was there a meeting" between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr. The union "suggested meeting again Friday, but the league declined because of scheduling conflicts." Thus, there are "no future meetings planned at this point." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "Until we're tackling the major issues, I'm not sure what the urgency is to meet on a 24/7 basis" (ESPNNY.com, 10/11). In Boston, Steve Conroy reports "progress was made" Friday on a drug testing plan, and the sides also "dealt with contract issues such as term length and player assignments that still need to be worked on." Other "miscellaneous legal issues were also discussed, again with some disagreements" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/12). Daly said, "As far as I know, Don was supposed to get back to Gary (Wednesday) afternoon or (Thursday) morning, but he hasn't." NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr said, "We've put forth three different proposals in core economic areas, each of which gave the clubs something meaningful, each of which gave the clubs more than they've had before. And the owners have really offered the players nothing meaningful in terms of things the players don't have now." Daly responded, "At some point we have to see a willingness from the association to compromise" (TORONTO SUN, 10/12). Both sides said that talks "were cordial" (AP, 10/11).
PLAYERS SEEING GLASS HALF-EMPTY: Canucks C Manny Malhotra on Thursday was with the NHLPA negotiating team and said, "It's at a crawl at this point, but we knew that coming in that it was going to be long" (AP, 10/11). Penguins C Sidney Crosby, wearing a black jersey with the NHLPA logo on it, yesterday said, "It's still early. There's still time for decisions to be made and time to make sure nobody does something they're going to regret." He added, "I don't think there's a deal to be made right now" (AP, 10/11). Blues C David Backes said, "I have not succumbed to the notion that there's not going to be a season. But at the same time, I was in the room all day today ... From where it sits right now, it's not looking like we need to be skating five days a week and getting ready for a camp anytime soon." Canadiens RW Erik Cole said, "I told my guys here in Montreal in early July, 'We'll be lucky if we play before December.' A lot of them didn't believe me until we started doing the NHLPA conference calls." He added, "When you hear Gary Bettman say 'We've got the greatest fans,' yes, hockey fans love the game but at the same time people are only going to take so much." Backes: "We do have a great team in St. Louis and momentum in a city that's had to go through a rebuild. And now we're ready to reap those fruits from the struggling times. We had a fan base that sold out a record number of games last year. To not be able to continue that momentum, with a new ownership group in St. Louis, for all the support we have from fans and corporate sponsors -- that's just killing everybody" (ESPN.com, 10/11).
FANS' IRE TOWARD THE OWNERS: ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote, "The relationship between fans and players will always be different than the relationship between fans an owners." Players are "more transient but owners and fans are like neighbors who have to get along if the relationship is going to flourish." An owner's relationship with a "devoted fan base will be altered if an entire season is wiped out." Burnside: "As we lament the limp passing of what would have been the first day of the regular season, one wonders whether at some point down the road these owners will regret having sold off part of their humanity, what they have strived for in their communities, for a bigger financial payday" (ESPN.com, 10/11). In Chicago, David Haugh writes money "might not be the only thing" Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz loses. The longer this work stoppage goes on, the "more uncomfortable Rocky might find sitting in his usual spot among the masses when the games resume." If the lockout continues through January, Wirtz likely "gets booed for letting" Bettman "stop the momentum" the team had built" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/12).
WE BUILT THIS CITY: The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) on Thursday joined mayors in cities across the country that host NHL teams in calling on the league to continue negotiations with the NHLPA to reach a new CBA and to end the lockout (USCM). In St. Paul, Mila Koumpilova notes city Mayor Chris Coleman and downtown business owners "urged them to work it out." Coleman said, "The business owners cannot survive another year with a lockout" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 10/12).
BUZZ KILLER: In L.A., Helene Elliott writes, "Instead of being rocked by cheers Friday night, Staples Center will be silent." It is "cruel that fans who waited 45 years to claim hockey supremacy must now wait indefinitely for a final celebration." It is "almost like being victimized by the only bit of bad, old karma the Kings didn't obliterate last spring." By the time hockey returns, the "buzz the Kings generated last spring might have fizzled out." The team is "trying to keep sponsors on board by communicating with them daily, but casual followers have short attention spans and media moves from one hot story to the next" (L.A. TIMES, 10/12).
STILL SKATING: In Montreal, Pat Hickey notes "about 5,600 fans showed up" to the Colisee Pepsi on Thursday to watch the Tournee des Joueurs, the "barnstorming troupe" of locked-out NHLers organized by Flyers C Max Talbot and D Bruno Gervais. It was the series' "largest crowd but well short of the 15,000-seat capacity." The game was the "most ambitious project in the series of exhibition games." The Colisee is "significantly larger than the venues to date, and the game featured full 20-minute periods to accommodate RDS which televised the game." Gervais said, "We were hoping we'd get more people. I thought with this city wanting a team, there would be more but I think the fans who were here got a good show" (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/12). In New Jersey, Tom Gulitti reports there are "no plans to shift" any AHL Albany Devils games to Prudential Center should the NHL lockout "become an extended one" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 10/12). Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik on Thursday said that the team's Community Hero program "will continue whether games are played or not." Vinik: "We feel strongly -- the Lightning and my wife and myself -- about being committed to this community. It's the right thing to do." In Tampa, Damian Cristodero noted the program "will distribute $2.05 million" to different charities (TAMPABAY.com, 10/11).
THE REPLACEMENTS: The L.A. TIMES' Elliott noted FS West and Prime Ticket will "show classic Kings and Ducks games from their respective Stanley Cup runs in place of games that have been canceled through Oct. 24 because of the NHL lockout" (LATIMES.com, 10/11). Blogger Ed Sherman noted NBC Sports Network Thursday night "instead of airing the scheduled hockey doubleheader that would have kicked off the season" showed "The Fan," starring Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes. Sherman: "Hey, wouldn't Slap Shot have been more appropriate for what was supposed to be the NHL's opening night?" In upcoming weeks, "expect to see 'The Natural,' 'Rocky,' 'Rudy,' and whatever else NBCSN can dig up in its vault" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 10/11).