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CKA Uber
 Vancouver Canucks


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:00 am

Nearly two years after selling the organization that bore his family's name, Richard Petty is once again the man behind a Petty team in NASCAR.

Petty on Monday announced that he had joined with a pair of investment companies to buy out former partner George Gillett and take control of Richard Petty Motorsports. Petty will serve as chairman of the reorganized franchise and be actively involved in overseeing day-to-day operations of a company that will field two cars on NASCAR's top division in 2011, a No. 43 driven by A.J. Allmendinger and a No. 9 driven by Marcos Ambrose.

[This] is a great day for me, my family, our fans and our wonderful sponsors. [They] have supported me through thick and thin and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

The team will continue to field Fords, and still acquire chassis and engines from Roush Fenway Racing and Roush-Yates Engines, respectively, according to a team representative. It will also remain in its current facility, a Concord, N.C., shop owned by Boris Said.

The sale ends a turbulent chapter in the team's history under Gillett, who merged the assets of the old Petty Enterprises operation with his former Gillett-Evernham Motorsports team in early 2009. Making his primary residence in Colorado and leaving son Foster Gillett to oversee activities as managing partner, Gillett ran a four-car team that once had such a murky leadership structure that former driver Kasey Kahne publicly wondered who was in charge. Over time the team became so financially strapped that there were real questions about whether the organization would even make it to races by the end of this past season.

Needing a cash infusion from the sale of his share of the Liverpool English soccer club to buoy the race team, Gillett received only a fraction of what he was hoping for in a transaction that cast the future of RPM in doubt. In the final weeks of the 2010 season it became apparent that the 73-year-old Petty, who won 200 races and seven championships behind the wheel, was trying to cobble together financing to buy what remained of the business his father, Lee, started in 1949. Reports indicated that Petty, a minority owner in RPM, owned as little as four percent of the company.

Medallion Financial is a New York-based company that specializes in taxi medallion lending and commercial lending. The company is run by Alvin and son Andrew Murstein, and counts former New York governor Mario Cuomo and Atlanta Braves senior vice president Hank Aaron among members on its board of directors. The company has its roots in the New York taxi cab business, and had loaned $3.5 billion since going public in 1996.

"We could not be happier to be able to acquire these assets together," Andrew Murstein, Medallion's president, said in a statement. "Richard is one of the greatest names, not only in NASCAR, but in all sports. His name and image are a world-recognized brand with unlimited potential to grow and expand in racing. Ample working capital has been invested in the company to ensure this great team and legend will not only continue to perform, but will thrive and be back in [Victory Lane]."

DGB Investments is a firm based in San Jose, Calif., run by Canadian-born investor Douglas Bergeron, who is also chief executive officer of VeriFone, a secure electronic payments business. Bergeron remains the largest private shareholder in the company, which according to its Web site has tripled in value and is now worth several billion dollars.

"With Richard Petty's unmatched name and reputation in the motorsports industry, I know this investment is well-timed to succeed," Bergeron said in a statement.

"We are going to help put Richard Petty Motorsports back in Victory Lane."

The practice of race teams seeking outside financial help is not new. Richard Childress Racing did just that in the early 2000s, partnering with New York-based Chartwell Investments in a restructuring following Dale Earnhardt's death. Roush Racing became a 50 percent partner with Fenway Sports Group, parent company of the Boston Red Sox, in 2007. Petty Enterprises tried the same tactic in its final days, partnering with Boston Ventures in a move that ultimately failed to preserve the franchise as a stand-alone entity.

But Monday, after months of uncertainty and two years of chaos, Petty was hopeful that he had found stability. "Our partnership with Andy Murstein and Doug Bergeron will help take us to a whole new level," he said, "and I could not be more excited about our future."

Finally, some good news for RPM. I hope this is the beginning of a climb back up to competitiveness.

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