IndyCar – Belskus is Searching for New IRL Leader

Word is on the street (and in the Indianapolis Star) that the IRL is looking for a new CEO. Jeff Belskus took over for Tony George last year after his mom, his sisters and the consigliori voted him out of his positions of leadership within the family business. At this time, Jeff serves as the CEO of Hulman & Co., IRL, IMS, IMS Productions and the radio network. Busy man, but he is looking for help, especially since Joie Chitwood (IMS CEO) and Charlie Morgan (IMS Productions CEO) left for greener pastures.

With all the pink slips being handed out at 16th and Georgetown these days as they restructure the companies, it is a bit surprising to hear that the family is looking to add staff at such a potentially highly paid post. But it does make a good amount of sense. Belskus cannot handle all these duties on his own and certainly cannot be expected to have expertise in all these areas. What he does excel at has become apparent. He is the guy who was brought in to evaluate expenditures, rightsize the staffing, sell the planes, contract out some of the labor, shrink the Indy schedule and generally be the bad guy.

Now that the family budget is well into the process of being put back in order, the board is moving forward with a search for a new CEO of the Indy Racing League. Candidates listed out include Randy Bernard, CEO of Professional Bull Riders, Mark Miles, President of Central Indiana Corporate Partnerships and chairman of the 2012 Super Bowl committee and Zak Brown founder and CEO of Just Marketing. I would lean towards Zak Brown, since his company is all about motorsports sponsorships in the IRL, NHRA, NASCAR and even F1, which puts him at a major advantage over the other two guys. That said, Zak is very successful at what he does and may not be terribly interested.

This is an interesting move, because the IRL has never had a dedicated CEO per say. Tony George served as the CEO of the IRL, along with all of his other responsibilities since the formation of the league. Belskus, in his short reign has also had the same divided attentions. This has largely left the day to day operations of the IRL to Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart who are chief muckity mucks over the commercial and competition divisions respectively. And while the league has been gaining some positive momentum this season, despite the economy and the state of US motorsports in general, it clearly could benefit from new blood at the top giving clear guidance and undivided attention to growing the series.

If you recall, Tony George was given just that opportunity when the family neutered him and offered him the chance to focus his efforts to just the IRL CEO-ship. This, after the board identified the IRL as their one property that had the largest growth potential.

With all the upheaval in the family side of the business this past year, it would be pretty easy to cast doom and gloom on the future of the series, but more and more we see that there has been a pretty reasoned approach to the decisions that have been made. The IRL is a growth property positioned on a growth television network (Vs.) in the midst of restructuring their management and staffing in recognition that status quo is not acceptable.

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