Report: France family exploring sale of NASCAR

From The Marbles
A NASCAR logo on a car is seen in the garage during a NASCAR auto racing practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP)
A NASCAR logo on a car is seen in the garage during a NASCAR auto racing practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP)

Is NASCAR for sale?

According to reports from Reuters and CNBC, NASCAR executives are “working with investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc to identify a potential deal for the company.” Talks are in the exploratory stage and a NASCAR spokeswoman did not deny the Reuters report, saying the sport had nothing to add at this time.

Who owns NASCAR?

The France family primarily owns NASCAR. The sanctioning body was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1948. He was succeeded by his son Bill France Jr., who operated NASCAR until 2003, when current CEO Brian France took over. Lesa France Kennedy, Brian’s sister, has a key stake in the company as well as Jim France. Jim is Lesa and Brian’s uncle and the brother of Bill France Jr.

According to Brian France’s divorce documents in 2013, Jim and Lesa were the owners of the sport, while Brian had no ownership stake. Per sources cited in the Wall Street Journal in 2017, Brian France sold his stake in the sport approximately 10 years ago. When Bill France divested his stake in NASCAR in 1999, he split 50 percent of the sport between Lesa and Brian while Jim kept 50 percent.

The majority of NASCAR races are run on tracks owned by International Speedway Corporation and Speedway Motorsports Inc. ISC is a publicly-traded company and Jim and Lesa own approximately a third of its shares. Lesa is the CEO while Jim is the Chairman of the company. ISC owns Daytona International Speedway among other tracks.

Who could buy NASCAR?

This is a fantastic question. There aren’t too many companies who have the capital to buy a major sport. And not only would a company or group of people need capital to buy NASCAR, they would also need to be confident in the long-term future of the sport. And that confidence may be more important than the money at this point.

NASCAR at-track attendance and television ratings are sinking in a hurry. Television audiences have declined by large fractions over the last five years and the trend is even more drastic going back to the sport’s peak in the late 2000s.

NASCAR scored a giant coup with a 10-year, multi-billion dollar television deal with Fox and NBC to broadcast the sport’s races through the 2024 season. But while the deal is working out for NASCAR financially, it’s not working out nearly as well for the networks, who certainly didn’t anticipate such a decline in viewership.

Why a spokesperson’s non-denial is significant

In many instances like this, a spokesperson will deny a report of this nature even if there is truth behind it. In this report, NASCAR spokesperson Steph Harris said, “We don’t have anything to add,” to an inquiry from Reuters.

When a spokesperson typically makes a statement like that it is a tacit confirmation that the reporting is correct. If that is true in this case, it’s a massive, massive scoop that NASCAR’s only ownership family is considering a way out — even partially — of the ownership side of the biggest auto racing series in North America.

Didn’t NASCAR just make a purchase of its own?

Yes, it did. The sanctioning body recently announced it was purchasing lower-level stock car series ARCA and would begin operations of the series in 2020. ARCA was the lone national stock car series that was not run by NASCAR, which operates the high-level Cup Series and the second-tier Xfinity Series and third-tier Camping World Truck Series.

What is NASCAR’s long-term plan?

It’s another question we don’t have the answer to, other than saying the sport is really, really, really hoping drivers in their 20s start winning races soon and have personalities to help carry the sport in the absence of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and others.

The sport’s schedule is in dire need of an overhaul but that can’t happen because of a five-year sanctioning agreement it signed with its tracks. That agreement expires in 2020 and the 2019 Cup Series schedule looks exactly like the 2018 schedule.

NASCAR is also looking at a new sponsorship model for the title sponsorship of the Cup Series. Monster signed a one-year extension to remain the Cup Series title sponsor through the 2019 season but is unlikely to return in that role in 2020. Monster signed on in December of 2016 to take over for Sprint as the Cup Series sponsor in 2017 and its run as title sponsor will be the shortest of any company that’s held the role.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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