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Volume 21 No. 48
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France family may sell only a stake in NASCAR

Chairman and CEO Brian France represents the third generation of the family that has controlled the sport for 70 years.
Photo: Getty Images

As speculation continues around the France family’s future in NASCAR, many sources envision the family selling only a stake of their holdings and staying in the sport long term, versus a full sale.


SportsBusiness Journal first reported in February that the sanctioning body could be up for sale, and Reuters reported in early May that the Frances hired Goldman Sachs to explore a possible sale.


Industry executives across the sport have said in recent weeks that the amount most commonly being talked about being sold is in the 40 to 49 percent range. Whether a path to control would be included in such a deal was unclear.


The Frances’ involvement in NASCAR is led by Chairman and CEO Brian France, Vice Chairman Jim France and International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy. The France family has controlled the sport for 70 years over three generations.


Sources could not rule out the possibility that the family could still sell its entire holdings, and some are skeptical that NASCAR can find a buyer without providing majority control and the final say on decision making.


NASCAR has refused to comment or make the France family, or other NASCAR executives, available to discuss the matter. Sources interviewed for this story are not involved in any potential sale offers.


The number of possible suitors that have been pitched on the sale is unclear, but two companies that are consistently being pegged as potential players are Comcast and Chinese auto company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. Comcast is seen as the most natural buyer, given its myriad links to the sport and the fact that it already owes NASCAR several billion dollars in media rights by the end of 2024. Through a subsidiary, Geely is building several tracks in China and also has invested in motorsports ventures in the U.S.


Comcast declined to comment, while a spokesperson for Geely said last week that its executives “don’t publicly comment on any negotiations, past present or future.”


There has also been talk of interest from private equity firms, but no names have emerged.


Among the most frequently asked questions is whether the France family is also looking at selling its controlling stake in track promoter and real estate owner ISC. Most in the sport say they expect an ISC stake would be included in a sale to make the deal more attractive to buyers.


One source said NASCAR is valuing a 40 percent stake in only the sanctioning body at $2 billion, which would imply a total value of $5 billion. By comparison, Formula One sold in 2016 for a combined $8 billion between equity and assumed debt, but no tracks were included in the sale.