Q&A with IndyCar's new CEO Randy Bernard
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to introduce today's speakers. Joining us for the announcement are: Jeff Belskus, President and CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Brian Barnhart, the President of Competition and Racing Operations for the Indy Racing League; and finally, Randy Bernard, formerly CEO of the Professional Bull Riders. I'll turn things over to Jeff to get started.
JEFF BELSKUS: This is a big day for the IndyCar Series, for the IZOD IndyCar Series. We've had many good things happening today. We have a team in New York meeting with IZOD about our promotional plans. As I speak, Terry Angstadt and several of our Brazilian IZOD IndyCar Series drivers are meeting with Brazilian President Lula about our upcoming event on March 14th.
Earlier today, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced their sponsors and drivers for the 2010 season, and we're gathered here today to introduce our new CEO for the Indy Racing League, Randy Bernard.
Randy brings a wealth of relevant experience to us. He has served very successfully for 15 years as the CEO of the Professional Bull Riders, where he expanded the brand and popularity of the sport.
We expect he will do the same for us here. He brings a proven track record as a successful CEO, and is a sports marketer and a promoter. His skills blend well with the leadership in place at the league which will enable them to direct their full attention to what they each do best.
Our board and entire executive team are very pleased with the progress made by Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart, and we believe Randy will complement their skills and complete our team.
We're pleased to welcome Randy to our racing family. And I look forward to working with him.
RANDY BERNARD: Good afternoon. I would first like to thank the Hulman George family for giving me this opportunity. Mrs. (Mari Hulman-) George, Nancy (George), Josie George), Kathy (George-Conforti), Jack Snyder, as well as Jeff here, because I really believe in the IRL.
Most of you know, I don't come from the motorsports industry. I come from the PBR, where I was the CEO for the past 15 years.
The PBR started with 20 men that had a vision. They all put up $1,000 each. From that, in 1994, they had eight events. Today, they'll have over 400 events. Their total sponsorship back then was 360,000. Today it will be over 26 million.
We'll produce events in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. The PBR will also be broadcasting over 80 countries around the world. I say this because I started back then as the only employee with the PBR that they had.
Today we have 120. I had to learn from the ground up. I had to learn television. I had to learn marketing. Promotion. There wasn't one facet of the sport that I didn't have to learn firsthand.
When I was approached by the Hulman-George family about this position, I really wasn't sure. But when I started doing my research and saw how much opportunity this sport has, I knew it was a great opportunity for me. I started flying around doing some due diligence.
One of the people I had met with was IZOD. I was blown away with how much research and how much they're going to promote this great sport. I created six goals for the 2010 that I believe are very important for myself and for business for this business. First, I want to create a positive environment. We need to work as one. We need to have a passion and a focus.
Number two, we need to learn the rich ‑‑ I need to learn the rich culture and tradition of Indy (car) racing.
I will spend hours in the Hall of Fame. I will want to spend hours with past champions that will give me insight, and I will also want to spend a lot of time with fans. I want to hear their input. I want to see what they think of the sport.
Third, I want to create a consistent marketing platform. I need to meet with promoters, team owners, sponsors, managers and staff, to make sure that we all have the same vision of the Indy Racing League.
Fourth, to become profitable. Not by cutting costs, but increasing revenues. We need more fans and more sponsors, bottom line. And fifth, develop relationships. I am on a huge learning curve here.
It's going to be very important for me to develop relationships with team owners, promoters, the sponsors, and all the employees. But, last and most important, is I want to reignite the Indy Racing League to America on the excitement and tradition of open wheel racing. Thank you.
BRIAN BARNHART: Thanks, Randy. Good afternoon, everyone. As Jeff said, it is a great day for the IZOD IndyCar Series. And on behalf of Terry Angstadt and myself, I would like to welcome Randy to the Indy Racing League family.
His experience with the PBR is the right fit to enhance the positive growth that we have experienced over the last few years. We continue to produce one of the most exciting on‑track products, challenging both teams and drivers, and the addition of Randy demonstrates how much the Hulman-George family believes in that product and is willing to invest in it.
We have made many positive strides in the last couple of years, including the unification of open wheel racing, and, of course, we welcome IZOD as our first title sponsor in nearly a decade.
The addition of Randy to the team is another step in the right direction. And Terry and I very much look forward to working with Randy and working with him to help continue this growth.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Randy, you said you want to develop this. Are you further ahead here than you were, than when you started with the PBR?
RANDY BERNARD: Yes, sir. There's not even a question of that. When I started with the PBR, the acronym stood for Pabst Blue Ribbon. (Laughter) I mean, it was a very small little genre sport that was part of rodeo.
This here has such a rich culture, 100‑year culture, and tradition to it. That's what excites me about this. I think there's so much opportunity, that if we just create that vision and create that marketing plan and Brian continues to do a great job with exciting races, I can't see how this sport can't just ignite.
Q. Randy, you said you've met with IZOD. They've been around the series about a year and they've got some crackerjack people in marketing. It's got to be a big help for you to be able to come in and have IZOD with you to help grow the series. I think the advertising has been everywhere. There's promotions everywhere, places that the league have never been promoted before is now being done. So working with them it's got to make your job a little bit easier, certainly can help you get over the hump.
RANDY BERNARD: In doing my due diligence, that was one of the things that really tipped the scale when you can go into their office in New York and see the vision and what their plan on how they're going to promote this and how they're going to do it in a way that's going to create a great image for the open wheel racing and Indy Racing League.
Q. Jeff, could you explain a little bit about the background about how Randy became a player in this game and the early part of the negotiations?
JEFF BELSKUS: Well, we have Josie to thank for that. Josie George introduced us to Randy. And we were just starting our search for a CEO. And Josie very graciously introduced us to Randy.
And he just from the get‑go was such a strong candidate, that we ended up very fortunately here today.
Q. Randy, what sorts of things, you mentioned getting to know the fans. What sorts of things do you have planned out to kind of interact with them going forward?
RANDY BERNARD: Well, I can tell you some of the things I do currently is every single e‑mail that comes into the PBR website will go through my e‑mail file. I want to have a pulse on what they like, what they don't like.
And of course there's going to be disgruntled people. But what you really want to do is look to learn and look at what people are doing. I also look at other sports and see how their ‑‑ people ask me in my industry right now who is our competitor. And there's only one answer to that. It's entertainment. It's the movie theater. It's anyone that's selling a ticket.
And what we have to do is make sure that our pulse is on what America wants to buy. So my whole thing about listening to the fans is wanting to really figure out the passion, the demographics, helps to sell sponsorships and helps to put people in seats.
Q. Brian, for you, having Randy join the team with you and Terry, you running the operations and Terry in commercial division, how does bringing Randy in help you guys and make your jobs any easier?
BRIAN BARNHART: Well, as we said, I think it allows Terry and I to focus more on what our responsibilities are. And the addition of Randy is just supplemental help. And it certainly allows me to continue to focus on the competition side.
Terry has done a great job, along with Greg (Gruning) and John Lewis, and we've had experienced some growth, as we mentioned with the addition of IZOD. You've got Apex-Brasil on board and of course with unification. We've got a lot of positive steps going. But to experience that growth you have to be staffed and manned to be able to manage and deal with it.
I think the assumption of adding Randy as CEO allows Terry and I to really focus on the jobs at hand and to pay more attention to those. I think it simplifies things for us a great deal.
Q. Randy, some of the top bull riders are Brazilian and some of the top IndyCar drivers are Brazilian. How does that work out? And do you hope to promote American drivers more?
RANDY BERNARD: I don't speak Portuguese. Last year we had 56 events in Brazil. We have television relationships. The Tasod brothers, the Indy Racing League is currently using in Brazil, I'm very familiar with and know.
I think that will be a big advantage. I'll be able to walk into the owner's office and visit on a handshake basis. I think that what we have found is very important in this sport is Americans want to see Americans wins. There's no question about it. There's one reason everyone in this room is rooting for the winner of the Super Bowl to be the Colts. We're from here. I think that's very important. But at the same time, I truly believe that open wheel racing and Indy Racing League wants to be known for having an international presence.
And I think it's very important, not for all sponsors, but for a lot of sponsors to have an international presence. And we have to honor that and if the best races in the world come from Brazil, then America has to step up to the plate.
Q. Randy, PBR is on Versus. How does that help you because the IZOD, IndyCar Series and Indy Lights, your association with working with Versus has to help you immensely, I would think?
RANDY BERNARD: I have a great relationship with Jamie Davis and Mark Fein and all the folks at Versus. I have a great relationship with NBC, CBS and Fox. So the only network that I have not dealt with is ABC. So I'm looking forward to spending time with them and really learning them and what's important to them.
Q. What was the big break‑through for the PBR?
RANDY BERNARD: I think the biggest break‑through was in the early years we wanted to make the cowboys into stars and we never lost our vision on that. They are the PBR, Professional Bull Riding, and that's what we had to deal with, is create stars. And after that we started, we were able to increase the prize money and keep them focused.
And if you are going to watch bull riding, the very best bull riders in the world only ride for the PBR. I think that's very important. And I think that's the very excitement for our meeting here, Indy Racing League, with all the great drivers now race under the Indy Racing League in open wheel.
Q. Randy. You're really landing here at probably the worst of all possible times, because it's the status and the expense of Indy car racing, the economy. But also you're going to be dealing, as Brian has been, with the new Indy car design issues, plus the Centennial, the track. You mentioned as your second point is learning the traditions and everything of the sport. Has that sort of multiplied the difficulty level of landing here at this time?
RANDY BERNARD: I think landing here at this time was an opportunity I saw coming here. I looked at that as a challenge, but I look at it as so much opportunity more than the challenge. If you talk to me about specifics, that's the first thing I'm going to do is look over here to Brian. And Brian's the expert on that.
I'm not going to try to come here and pretend that I'm going to become an open wheel racing expert in one year or two years. I'm sure that's not going to happen. But what I'm going to tell you I'll market the sport the very best we can. If we can't fit more people in those seats and the ratings don't go up, then I would say I didn't do my job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.