Tony George still in charge as rumors of ouster swirl
SI.com and SpeedTV both reported that George was ousted as IMS CEO
George: "No changes in leadership or responsibility have been made"
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Board of Directors has asked CEO Tony George to focus on the company within its organization that needs the most attention, possibly signaling an end to his tenure overseeing the Speedway.
IMS Chairman of the Board Mari Hulman George said in a statement released today: "There was a general discussion [at Tuesday's board meeting] about the challenges and opportunities facing all of our companies and where most of our energies need to be spent. All of our properties are doing well, given the challenges of the current economy. The Indy Racing League represents our greatest growth opportunity and therefore deserves the most attention at this point."
Rumors have been persistent for the past month that a power struggle involving George and his three sisters was taking place. The IMS board of directors includes George's mother, his sisters Josie, Nancy and Kathy Conforti, Indianapolis attorney Jack Snyder and George. What's likely to happen is George will continue in his role as the CEO of the IndyCar Series, while control of the Speedway will go to another member of the family.
Reacting to initial reports by SI.com and SpeedTV.com that he had already been ousted, George responded by saying, "Contrary to published reports, I continue to serve as CEO of IMS. Our board of directors met yesterday, and we did discuss how to best confront challenges and exploit opportunities facing our businesses. This is nothing new and is something that we continually do as a board. But no changes in leadership or responsibility have been made."
George began the Indy Racing League in 1994, which began competition in 1996 starting a bitter open-wheel racing civil war. At that time, teams from CART comprised most of the lineup of the Indianapolis 500, but with the advent of the IRL, those teams boycotted the world's biggest auto race.
But with last year's financial collapse, George's sisters expressed concern that he had spent much of the family fortune on propping up the IndyCar Series as well as on dramatic changes to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to accommodate an ill-fated alliance with Formula One.
George had turned the day-to-day controls of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over to Joie Chitwood, III, who became president five years ago and stepped away from running the IRL in 2005 when he started his own IndyCar team, Vision Racing.
The IRL is run by Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart, while George remained the CEO.
But it was George who finally helped end the open-wheel racing war when he reached an agreement with Kevin Kalkhoven of Champ Car in 2008. Champ Car agreed to cease operation with its teams joining IndyCar. George made the transition easier by giving the Champ Car teams free cars and engines for the 2008 season. Those teams had to pay for their equipment in 2009.
George was named president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in January 1990. He attempted to buy CART in 1991 but was quickly turned down by the rival car owners.
George also broke with tradition by bringing NASCAR to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the Inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. He brought Formula One to the track with the United States Grand Prix in 2000.