Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Indiana Senate Thumbs Nose At Indiana Constitution: Votes $100 Million Public Treasury Raid To Benefit Hulman-Owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway

State Bailout First Step In Plan By Hulman Family To Sell The IMS To Out-Of-State Interests
The vast majority of members of the Indiana Senate violated the oath of office they took to uphold the Indiana Constitution when they were sworn into office. By a vote of 37-12, the Indiana Senate voted today to raid the state treasury to give $100 million to the Hulman-owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway to make improvements to the race track and surrounding properties, including a golf course and possibly even the construction of a new hotel adjacent to the track. The provision of the Indiana Constitution that clearly prohibits the action taken by SB 91, authored by Sen. Mike Young, can be found in Article 11, Section 12. It expressly prohibits the state from giving or lending the state's credit "in aid of any person, association or corporation." SB 91 clearly violates the constitution by illegally taking up to $5 million in state revenues annually and giving the money directly to aid the Hulman family to spend as they please on their privately-owned race track.

Article 11, Section 12. The State shall not be a stockholder in any bank; nor shall the credit of the State ever be given, or loaned, in aid of any person, association or corporation; nor shall the State become a stockholder in any corporation or association. However, the General Assembly may by law, with limitations and regulations, provide that prohibitions in this section do not apply to a public employee retirement fund.
Informed sources further tell us that Indiana taxpayers are simply being used by the Hulman family as pawns to inflate the value of a race track to obtain the asking price they are seeking as they engage secretly in negotiations to sell the IMS to out-of-state interests as soon as the legislation is signed into law and the the first round of bonds are issued to secure a pot of money to make improvements to add value to the IMS at taxpayers' expense. The move will allow the Hulman family to shift tens of millions in debt to Indiana taxpayers at the same time family members are able to realize a windfall by attaining a higher selling price for the IMS than they could currently fetch on the market without the $100 million infusion of state tax dollars. A series of financial missteps by the only surviving grandson of the late Tony Hulman, Tony George, beginning in the 1990s reportedly cost the family fortune more than $150 million. His mother and three sisters reportedly grew concerned that Tony's financial missteps were putting the family's fortune at risk and ousted him. With Tony no longer serving as CEO of the IMS or as a member of Hulman & Company's board of directors, no Hulman family member is positioned to take charge, which may be part of the impetus to unload the family's most costly asset to maintain and operate.

Hulman's only surviving daughter, Mari Hulman George, has never shown any business acumen to lead her father's business empire and her husband, Elmer George, a former race car driver and Vice President of the IMS was gunned down in a blaze of bullets  in 1976 at the hands of a 34-year old farm hand employed by the Hulmans who had been engaged in an extramarital affair with Mari, who only weeks prior to his untimely death had filed to divorce him. When Mari's father died  in 1978, his right-hand throughout his business career, Joe Cloutier, stepped in to take the reins of the family fortune, including the IMS.

Tony George would not emerge in a leading role for the family's business empire until Cloutier's death in 1989. By that time, the 30-year old had just begun his second marriage to Laura Livvix after divorcing his first wife with whom he had one son, Tony George, Jr., after six years of marriage. Both Tony and his ex-wife, Lisa Dawn Clark, had acknowledged during a lengthy and ugly divorce case that they had battled the use of drugs, including cocaine and marijuana. During one contentious period near the end of their marriage in 1988, Tony had attempted to commit Lisa due to mental incompetence, complaining that she had blown $5,000 of the couple's money the previous week. Following her release after spending a night at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Lisa filed for divorce. The couple reached an undisclosed financial settlement in April, 1989, which awarded custody of their son to Tony. The following month, Tony married Laura Livvix, who had one son to a prior marriage, Edward Carpenter. Tony and Laura have one daughter together, Lauren.

Tony George's first big moves at the IMS was the addition of the first additional annual race at the IMS with the running of the inaugural Brickyard 400 for the NASCAR series, a move widely lauded at the time, and a major overhaul of the 18-hole Brickyard Crossing golf course. His first blunder, however, came in 1996 when he invested heavily in the creation of a new racing league, the IRL, which caused a major split in open-wheel racing with CART led by the some of open-wheel racing's most prominent team owners and race car drivers. Open-wheel racing lost much of its fan appeal as the the NASCAR series exploded in popularity. For the first time in the long and legendary history of the Indianapolis 500, the track no longer experienced sell-out crowds on race day as attendance dwindled by the tens of thousands year after year. The economic depression that first gained a hold in 2008 also took its toll on attendance at the Brickyard 400 NASCAR event, causing an even bigger hit on attendance than the Indianapolis 500 suffered.

George's eight-year foray in bringing Formula One racing to the IMS proved equally as disastrous, racking up huge losses for a European-focused racing series that never caught on with American race fans. Meanwhile, other income-producing assets held by Hulman & Co. were sold off to finance Tony's disasterous spending spree that threatened the family's fortune. By the time that ordeal ended in 2008, George had reportedly blown through more than $150 million, leaving the family reeling in debt for the first time. Even news that oil had been struck on the family farm in Terre Haute, with wells reportedly producing as much as 400 barrels a day was not enough to stem family members' growing concern that the IMS was bleeding their fortune dry. Tony's years at the helm of the IMS had been brought to a permanent conclusion.

Potential suitors for the IMS are few in number due to the cost of acquisition. The IMS, Brickyard Crossing Golf Course and surrounding properties are currently assessed at $81.9 million for property tax purposes, which is down from $90.6 million as recently as 2006; however, a prospective buyer could be prepared to offer several times that amount, particularly if the pot is sweetened with guaranteed taxpayer subsidies of $5 million annually over the next 20 years to finance $100 million in improvements. The publicly-traded Speedway Motorsports, Inc. based in Charlotte, North Carolina is the largest marketer, promoter and and sponsor of motorsports events in the United States and perhaps in the best position to acquire the IMS. The company owns some of the leading race tracks in the country, including Atlanta, Bristol, Charlotte, Sonoma, Kentucky, Las Vegas, New Hampshire and Texas. According to the company's most recent annual report, "growth by acquisition and development of motorsport facilities as opportunities arise" will be considered. Speedway Motorsports acquired New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2008 for a whopping $340 million and Kentucky Speedway that same year for $70.8 million. New Hampshire has permanent seating for just 96,000, and Kentucky has permanent seating for 107,000, both small in comparison to the IMS, which has more than 250,000 permanent seats. The company earns about $50 million in profits on annual revenues in excess of $500 million.

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