April 12, 2010
The financial woes aren't getting any better for Richard Petty Motorsports and primary owner George Gillett, as Sports Business Journal reports that RPM has been in default on that $90 million loan since February. (Sorry, the article is subscription only.)
This comes a day after it was reported in the Sunday Times that Barclays bank, the title sponsors of England's Premier League, had agreed to help restructure Liverpool's £237 million debt and give the soccer club an influx of badly needed funds. Gillett and Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks have been struggling to pay off their debts on Liverpool and have been looking for another investor for some time.
Given Gillett's well-documented financial struggles, it's still mildly surprising that it's spilled over to the NASCAR side so much, even though a restructuring deal is in place. Gillett had to sell the Montreal Canadiens because of a financing problem, and given the value of Liverpool, it's telling that he and Hicks have struggled to help keep the club afloat.
Gillett, who is not seen at the track very often, held a press conference last year at Kansas Speedway, and I can honestly say it was one of the more bizarre press conferences that I've ever heard. Gillett was aloof and disinterested during the session, and on more than one occasion dodged a tough question about the (at the time) pending merger with Yates Racing by saying that his hearing was bad, and claimed that he was in talks with some Middle Eastern consortiums to bring the Richard Petty driving experience and related entities to the Middle East in exchange for credit.
All of these factors have to be playing a significant role into Kasey Kahne's decision for his future, and if Kahne leaves RPM, Budweiser may too. And given the state of big-money sponsors in NASCAR, the loss of Bud could cripple RPM more than losing Kahne ever would.
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