Wednesday, March 06, 2013

IBJ's Schoettle Unloads On IMS Officials For Damaging Leaks

The IBJ's Anthony Schoettle seems to have turned from being one of the biggest cheerleaders for Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to one of their sharpest critics overnight, if his post on his "The Score" blog is any indication. Schoettle unloads on IMS officials and, in particular, its new CEO Mark Miles, for a steady stream of media leaks he argues threaten to sink IndyCar and the IMS. Schoettle says IMS officials have only themselves to blame for rumors continuously popping up that the IMS and IndyCar series are for sale by the Hulman-George family.

Schoettle's blog post today comes after someone leaked to the AP a confidential Boston Consulting Group report, which urges Hulman & Co. to retain ownership of the IMS and IndyCar series and provides a blueprint for their successful future. Schoettle insists his musings aren't merely sour grapes because the report got leaked to the AP instead of him, or the leaking of the $100 million IMS bailout legislation earlier last month to the Indianapolis Star instead of the IBJ. He argues the steady drip of leaks from the IMS is harming the Speedway and the IndyCar series.

I suspect Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles or one of his minions might have intentionally leaked the report as a way to gauge public response to some of BCG’s recommendations such as a season-ending IndyCar road race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or a three-race postseason format.
Since I was informed this week—even after the Associated Press got a hold of a copy—that the blueprint was strictly an internal document, I have to assume the leak was an inside job.
When I asked Speedway officials how AP got the information, I received a three paragraph non-answer to that question. This curious sentence was included in the explanation: “At this point, there has been no authorized release of any of the work product that BCG provided to Hulman & Company during its engagement.”
So I have to assume, if I’m being told the truth, that the release was unauthorized. If I’m Miles and I didn’t poke my finger in the information dam myself, I’m finding out pretty quickly who’s responsible.
It probably seems odd that I would argue that such leaks must stop, since I have been the benefactor of leaks about IndyCar and Speedway happenings in the past. And no, this isn’t sour grapes. I applaud the AP for breaking the news last weekend.
But in the case of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series, the continual dripping of information out of the mothership is making the organization look unprofessional at best and dysfunctional at worst.
Are the information leaks Miles' biggest worry? Maybe not. But the scariest thing for the Speedway and IndyCar Series is that the breaches could indicate there are forces within the organization’s leadership pushing in different directions. If I’m a sponsor or a potential sponsor, that gives me pause to get involved with such an organization . . .
One point of contention I have with Schoettle's musings is the alleged mishandling of the public release of information about the $100 million bailout legislation sponsored by State Sen. Mike Young.
How could someone as politically savvy as Miles, who has worked for high-level Republicans Richard Lugar, Dan Quayle and Bill Hudnut, not know some ink-stained wretch was going to seize that tasty tidbit of information? A proactive approach, rather than a reactive one, might have worked better there.
To the contrary, Miles executed the plan brilliantly in the same manner that has worked for the downtown mafia for years. Over the past year, the IMS carefully planted stories in the local media--with Schoettle's assistance--which laid the groundwork that much needed to be done to save the glory of the IMS. There was the shake-up in the board of directors that added outside heavy-hitters to the family-dominated Hulman & Co. There was the ouster of a CEO known by few in the community and his replacement with Miles, a long-time pretty boy favorite of local politicians and members of the downtown mafia. There was the tried-and-true Purdue produced report heralding the economic impact of the IMS on Central Indiana's economy. And then there were bucket loads of campaign dough strategically doled out to key political players to grease the wheels of legislation that had been in the works for nearly two years.
The leak to the Indianapolis Star right before the deadline to get bills out of committee was no mistake. It was carefully orchestrated to give as little time as possible for potential opposition to react to the news, while making sure that key players in the media were down for the $100 million gambit to ensure favorable media coverage. Even Schoettle chipped in with his bogus story describing conditions at the IMS as "horrendous" and out-of-date with other tracks around the country, a view no real expert could claim with a straight face. The fact is that the introduction of the legislation in committee is a public record, and IMS officials had to explain their proposal in advance--even if only days before its first hearing. Hell, within 10 days of the announcement of the unprecedented state-financing of improvements to a privately-owned sports facility, the legislation had already cleared the Senate by a wide margin. It's hard to argue the IMS made any missteps there. At least IMS officials got the Star to hold off on reporting about the IMS 2-year lobbying efforts behind the scenes until after the bill cleared the Senate.
As to the leaking of the Boston Consulting Group report, my view is that it was a direct response to the report by this blog of a planned sale of the IMS and the role the $100 million state bailout played in securing the selling price being sought by the Hulman-George family. The AP story's headline: "Family Told To Keep IndyCar, IMS." I would speculate that IMS officials didn't want state lawmakers to think they were just being used as pawns to secure the Hulman-George family's asking price for the IMS and wanted some work product produced within the last year to counter rumors of a sale. The report, after all, supposedly urged the family to retain ownership of the IMS and IndyCar series. That's what politicos refer to as doing damage control. It's a helluva stretch for Schoettle to think leaks are harming the IMS. If anything, they're working like a charm--according to plan. 

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