France and the NFL rumor resurfaces

UPDATE #2 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false.' The rumors that Brian France has sold shares of the family racing business to buy into an NFL franchise keep chasing the young NASCAR chairman and CEO like a rabid dog. The rumor flared up again two weeks ago when former NBA great Magic Johnson told USA Today, "It would be wonderful that Brian France would be interested in being a part-owner or owner in the Los Angeles franchise." "It may be wonderful, but I'm not interested, so that's where it stands," France said in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles office Thursday. "We've gotten to know each other through the NASCAR diversity council, and I've had dinner with Magic a couple of times, and I like him a lot," France added. "He knows I've had a home out here in Los Angeles before and all that stuff. We've never had a conversation regarding the NFL." France chairs the NASCAR board of directors, comprised mostly of his family members. NASCAR is a private company. He also owns a large chunk of the publicly traded International Speedway Corp. Both NASCAR and ISC are headquartered in Daytona Beach, FL. When asked about selling off his shares of NASCAR or ISC stock back to the family, presumably to finance an NFL bid, France would not discuss it. "We don't get into any of our family planning within the business," the 42-year-old executive said. "We do all kinds of financial transactions within the family. What I can tell you is that I'm heavily invested in the industry of NASCAR. I have a financial interest that, in my little world, is very important to me and I plan on keeping for a long time." When pressed for more information, France would not budge off the non-comment. "The public company (ISC) has various filings we've had, but we've never talked about the infrastructure of the private company and I can't get into that," he said. "I'd break the family tradition. I don't understand it," he said. "No. 1, I would have to hit the lottery to be able to afford an NFL team, the last time I checked," he said. "Economically, I'm not in that position. Secondly, I have a big interest in NASCAR. I have a huge financial and 20-years-of-my-life, interest in NASCAR. I'm in big-time sports. I don't need an NFL team to satisfy my sports needs." France said the persistent rumor that he wants to own a piece of the NFL has not hurt his effectiveness as NASCAR's leader, but he quickly added, "It's not helpful." France said he doubts he will manage NASCAR as long as his father, William C. France, who had control of the family company for more than 30 years. "I just don't think that will be the case for me," he said. "I don't see myself doing this until I'm 70 years old, but that should not be misconstrued that I'm out the door tomorrow morning." In part from the Daytona Beach News Journal 03/25/05 Former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson says he and NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France have held discussions concerning the purchase of an NFL team for Los Angeles. Johnson, a co-chairman of NASCAR's diversity committee, said he has met three or four times with France in Los Angeles, where France has a home, and he said the two will meet again in two weeks. "I'm working on trying to bring the NFL back to L.A.," Johnson said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "I've met with the league three, four, five times, hopefully to be a minority owner." Los Angeles, the nation's No. 2 media market, hasn't had an NFL team since 1995. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said during his annual state of the game address before the Super Bowl that the league intends to return a team to the Los Angeles area sometime this decade. "It would be wonderful that Brian France would be interested in being a part-owner or owner in the Los Angeles franchise," Johnson said. "He has the money, he has the marketing tools and he lives in L.A. He loves both the NBA and the NFL. So I would see him being an owner in one or the other league. I'd love to work with Brian." France — a grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. who has been credited with increasing the sport's popularity since taking over from his father, Bill France Jr., in 2003 — was not available for comment Thursday. "Brian and Magic have had several conversations," said Ramsey Poston, managing director of NASCAR corporate communications. "Mainly they've talked about diversity in NASCAR, but … they've talked about a lot of sports. They both like the NFL, but there has not been any specific conversations between the two about acquisition or ownership of an NFL team. Brian is firmly planted as CEO and chairman of NASCAR and is here for the long haul." USA Today 03/21/05 Brian France's on-and-off plans to get into the National Football League as part-owner of a proposed new Los Angeles franchise may be back on again, according to sources who say France is working with Magic Johnson on various NFL-NBA angles. Johnson is on the NASCAR business roster to help this sport's diversity program. The latest thinking on France-to-the-NFL is that he will complete NASCAR's current round of TV renegotiations before making any big moves. France has insisted he's not planning on leaving NASCAR anytime soon, though he has left the door open. Winston Salem Journal

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