NASCARNASCAR Cup Series

Buyout Saves Richard Petty Motorsports

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I don’t know how well Richard Petty knows his Shakespeare but he really ought to feel at one with the Bard’s play, All’s Well That Ends Well. After surviving the last few races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season perilously lurching from one week to the next he has now put together a deal which sees the team properly financed for the future.

For several weeks the organisation was clinging on by its fingertips, not knowing until usually the Wednesday whether they would be able to race the following Sunday. After the race at Texas on November 7th the trucks (haulers as the Americans know them) remained at the circuit until midweek. A plain white hauler turned up to join them but wouldn’t release the cars it contained for the Phoenix race until given specific authorisation. And there all the haulers sat for two days until finally whatever wheeling and dealing had been going on was completed to everyone’s satisfaction and the cars transferred to the race trucks in time to make the Phoenix race.

After the season’s last race at Homestead-Miami Richard Petty Motorsports announced it would reduce from a four car to a two car team in 2011 running the #43 car for A J Allmendinger and the #9 for Marcos Ambrose. It was known that Petty was trying to put a deal together but no details about that were forthcoming.

Yesterday it was announced that George Gillett had been bought out by a consortium consisting of Richard Petty, Andrew Murstein – the principal shareholder – and Douglas Bergeron. Murstein is president of Medallion Financial Corporation, a multi-billion dollar business that has grown out of the New York taxi business. Originally founded by Andrew Murstein’s grandfather the business started by trading in the medallions – hence the name – that are necessary to run a taxi company. Medallions that back then were bought for as little as $10 nowadays fetch $800,000.

Banks were reluctant to get involved in anything to do with financing the taxi business or to do with immigrants – Murstein’s grandfather had come to America from Argentina – so Medallion started its own finance company and then eventually that led to it creating its own bank.

Andrew Murstein has been looking to get involved with a big name sporting organisation – Hank Aaron, a former major league baseball player is on the board of Medallion – but never found anything which met his ideals. Murstein feels that in Richard Petty he has found exactly what he was looking for, a name that is synonymous with his sport and a globally known name to boot.

Canadian Douglas Bergeren runs DGB Investments based in San Jose, California and is also CEO of Verifone, a secure electronic payments business which has tripled in value and is another multi-billion dollar operation.

Richard Petty is included in the buyout team on condition that he is not just a figurehead as he was in the previous incarnation of RPM. He is being appointed as chairman and is going to take an active role in running the company. As far as Murstein is concerned he knows how to raise the finances and Petty knows how to run a NASCAR team and that’s the way RPM will now work.

So ends the sorry saga of RPM’s existence under George Gillett, the same man who took Liverpool FC to the brink and has taken losses in several of his sporting acquisitions.

RPM was founded by a merger of Petty Enterprises and Gillett-Evernham Motorsports. Ray Evernham had been the crew chief who won 47 Cup races and three Sprint Cup titles with Jeff Gordon in 1995, 1997 and 1998. Evernham found it difficult to work under Gillett and for contractual reasons was barred from getting involved with racing with other teams. He remained a minority shareholder in RPM throughout. He used his time creating a successful career as a NASCAR television analyst for ESPN and within the past two weeks said he is unsure what his future will be right now. Whether that means he might also play a more active role in RPM remains to be seen but he has said, again very recently, that he would do whatever he could to help Petty and RPM.

So for now RPM still intends running the 43 and 9 cars for Allmendinger and Ambrose respectively and still running Fords with chassis supplied by Roush Fenway Racing and engines provided by Roush-Yates Engines. The team will continue, too, to run out of the same race shop in Concord, North Carolina owned by NASCAR driver Boris Said. But already Murstein is talking about reverting to a four car team and is studying driver availability for 2011.

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Kevin is the latest addition to the TCF team specialising in NASCAR.
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