All is not bunnies and rainbows in the Hulman family these days.
The controversial, ground-breaking, tumultuous 20-year reign of Tony George at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is over. SPEEDtv.com has learned George was voted out of power in a Tuesday night board meeting in Indianapolis.Before we go too far in speculation, please note Robin's disclaimer that this report hasn't been confirmed and that both TrackSide Online and
A source close to the situation confirmed that the 49-year-old grandson of Tony Hulman would no longer be CEO of the Speedway after a vote of the IMS board of directors which includes mother Mari, sisters Josie, Nancy and Kathy, attorney Jack Snyder and George.
Calls to Snyder and Fred Nation, IMS vice president of communications, were not returned and George did not respond to an email.
(MORE from Robin Miller/SPEEDtv)
Then again maybe it's true, so let's get on with the rampant speculation.
If this were news from a press release from the dead of winter the news wouldn't seem to be such a big deal. Tony George has been involved in governing the speedway, the IndyCar series, and his own IndyCar team, so relinquishing leadership of any one of those would allow him to focus on the others. But this isn't the dead of winter - it's three days after the Indianapolis 500. This isn't just a simple transition.
Now before anyone thinks this means Tony George is free to backpack around the world and hang at hostels please note he is still a very busy man, as his various duties were summarized recently in a response by Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division, on Michael Knight's SpinDoctor500 blog.
On the perception (at least by me) that Tony George is disengaged from IRL decision-making after reunification: "That’s one (question) I haven’t had, so that’s always good. My best response is I think Tony, you’re right, for a couple of good, identifiable reasons, and I’m not trying to pat my management team on the back, but I know Tony has expressed his confidence in the direction we’re going. Like any good CEO, what he did was he gave us, the management team, the platform, the opportunity, with unification, where he had to be absolutely embroiled in that, the opportunity now to work with a (unified) property. I think he has a confidence level, and I check in with him on a very regular basis, to make sure we are setting the right course and executing as he wants us to, but, that doesn’t require him to look over our shoulder every day. And I mean that in a good way. I know he loves running Vision Racing, so he’s not only got CEO of the League, CEO of the Speedway, CEO of Clabber Girl Baking Powder and all the initiatives they have, a couple of bank Boards, I mean, this is a busy guy. I think he feels, 'I’ve got my check-ins and check-outs, but I don’t need to be doing that every day of my life.'"But Robin's report gives the impression that this ousting - again, which is unconfirmed - is due less to Tony's other commitments and more to the fact that Mr George has spent more that $600M over the last 13 years in his endeavors relating to both IMS and the Indy Racing League. That number is probably unconfirmed as well, but it's still likely a large tab. It isn't entirely unbelievable that given the minimal Return On Investment from that gi-normous amount that other members of the Hulman family have seen.
One consideration that may have also factored into this is that Tony George has opened up the speedway to other forms of racing. Massive changes were made to upgrade the Pagoda and build a road course for a Formula One race, and as you may have noted there is exactly zero revenue coming from that stream currently. A Moto GP race is held on the road course now, but it's too early to determine if that will retain profitability in coming years.
Of course, the big addition was adding the Brickyard 400 stock car race, which for years was believed to have provided the revenue that allowed the Indy Racing League to continue to function. However, ticket sales from that race may be going the way of that final Formula One race at Indy after last year's "10 laps and everybody change tires" debacle. You can't expect fans to cough up good money in these hard times to see seven-minute segments of something masquerading as racing.
Which may explain the biggest rumor of all: Tony George's replacement may be former Lowe's Motor Speedway promoter "Humpy" Wheeler. I kid you not. The fact that he was seen at Indianapolis this weekend only furthers the chance that this longtime N-Word guy may now be in charge of the famed speedway. We'll see if that pans out, but for the moment his name is the only one being mentioned currently.
Meanwhile, it looks like Tony George is still in charge of the Indy Racing League and Vision Racing, able to reap all the (ahem) profits they can generate.
UPDATE: The IndyChannel article has been pulled, but Indianapolis Business Journal is confirming all of this.
A racing industry source told IBJ that Tony George's mother and sisters became fed up with the financial losses incurred by the Speedway and Indy Racing League.
George's dismissal comes less than one month after his wife, Laura, was removed from her job as staff adviser at the IMS.
IMS officials were not available to comment this morning, but sources said that the IMS board hopes to talk to H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, one of the foremost promoters of NASCAR and former president of Lowe's Motor Speedway in North Carolina, about a possible management position.
CONFLICTING SECOND UPDATE: Tony George tells WISH-TV he's still CEO, but SI's Bruce Martin says the official announcement of his removal as CEO from the IMS Board is coming later today. Good grief.
An announcement by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation will be made Wednesday afternoon that says George's tenure is over after he was voted out of power in a board meeting Tuesday night. The IMS board of directors includes George's mother, Mari Hulman-George; sisters Josie, Nancy and Kathy Conforti, Indianapolis attorney Jack Snyder and George.
IMS officials have not issued any comment on the matter but a Speedway source said an official announcement will be made later Wednesday.
CURT CAVIN THIRD UPDATE:The intrepid Curt Cavin puts down his cellphone - which is probably burning hot right now - in time to get in his report.
According to the report -- which came from an online media company, and was picked up by two local news outlets -- a decision to dismiss (Tony) George came at Tuesday night's board of directors meeting. George, however, described the meeting as "typical," as did his mother, Mari Hulman George, who is chairman of the board.OK, so either Tony George is unaware of his own position with IMS or Robin Miller and Bruce Martin just REALLY stepped in it.
Hulman George also said there was no call to oust her son, who has held leadership positions at IMS since 1990.
"There haven't been any changes," she said. "We just discussed things like we usually do and how to make things better."
(MORE from Curt Cavin/IndyStar)
TONY GEORGE FOURTH UPDATE: