NASCAR to go up for sale (3rd Update)

Are Brian and Lesa France going to sell NASCAR?
Brian France has made NASCAR undesirable?

UPDATE Adam Stern of SBD rumors that Comcast is no longer actively discussing buying an equity stake in NASCAR, per sources, raising the prospect of the Frances remaining fully in control of the sport for the foreseeable future.

This comes amid Comcast’s $40B takeover of Sky UK.

07/26/18 Brian France said rumors are “seldom right" when the topic of a potential sale of NASCAR came up on SiriusXM on Wednesday.

The NASCAR chairman was on Tradin’ Paint Wednesday afternoon and was asked about a Reuters and CNBC report earlier this year that said the France family was exploring a partial sale of the sport.

“There’s nothing to report on that," regarding a potential sale. “Rumors are always interesting, but they’re seldom right. The France family is locked and loaded in its dedication to NASCAR."

It’s important to note that NASCAR did not shoot down the reports of a potential sale when they emerged in May. A NASCAR spokesperson told Reuters that the sport had nothing to add. That’s not a denial.

Will Bruton and Marcus Smith agree to package in SMI tracks too?
Will Bruton and Marcus Smith agree to package in SMI tracks too?

02/14/18 Some more data points on a possible sale of NASCAR and its tracks:

SMI Chairman O. Bruton Smith, his company and even NASCAR CEO Brian France have been linked repeatedly to a potential bid to buy the Carolina Panthers.(Longtime NASCAR owner Felix Sabates is also involved.) The NFL team in Charlotte is for sale after Jerry Richardson agreed to give up a controlling stake after claims of sexual harassment in the workplace. The NASCAR players will need money to make the purchase and then grow the franchise.

NASCAR, for all its excitement surrounding the charter system, has struggled to find new ownership. Its key stakeholders in the sport — four-car Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota), three-car Team Penske (Ford) and four-car Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet) — have owners who are age 77, 80 and 68, respectively. Only Tony Stewart, whose interests are varied outside of the sport, has a major stake in a playoff-caliber team and is under age 50.

Track consolidation in recent years (combined with a multi-year agreement keeping them on the schedule) means all but five races a year are run by two entities: International Speedway Corporation and Speedway Motorsports, Inc. That makes tracks easy to package in such a deal.

With attendance and TV ratings dropping, new business people need to find a way to change the model. So far, the charter system has done little more than allow those in power to sit on what they have, cutting costs and trimming the budget to face financial realities.

Does that mean a sale is what’s needed for part two? Don’t know. But certainly, removing the France family from a leadership role in any type of major changeover would turn heads and cause an opportunity for radical adjustments at a business level. Tim Bowles/Frontstretch

02/13/18 America's premier stock-car racing series has been controlled by the France family since its founding in 1948. But as NASCAR's 70th anniversary season opens with this weekend's Daytona 500, it comes amid rumblings over what the future could hold for the sanctioning body and its major track operators: International Speedway Corp., also controlled by the France family, and Speedway Motorsports Inc., controlled by the Smith family.

Could NASCAR be sold and its track operators merged or even included in such a deal?

While NASCAR said in a statement that it is not for sale, recent developments have fueled the speculation and it's been a topic of major discussion along pit road and among motorsports observers. Several NASCAR and ISC executives have taken on dual roles at both companies; the Smith family and NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France have been linked to possible involvement in a bid for the Carolina Panthers; and ISC's president indicated during a recent earnings report that the company is open to consolidation in the sport.

Liberty Media's $8 billion purchase of Formula One two years ago showed the interest in sports content, and with many companies having a lot of revenue on their balance sheet, a number of institutional investors could be interested in NASCAR.Comcast is a name that often comes up in the garage area. The company is already one of NASCAR's most important partners, serving as both a media rights partner and title partner of NASCAR through its NBC Sports and Xfinity brands, respectively. NASCAR is such an important investment for Comcast that several people from the sport, including new NBC Sports broadcaster Dale Earnhardt Jr., were interwoven throughout NBC's Super Bowl pregame show this month. Many sources inside the sport believe that Comcast sees great value in owning the content and in its future distribution. Comcast officials did not respond to requests for comment.

If NASCAR were sold on its own, a buyer would be getting the promotional, rule-making and rule-keeping arm of the sport. The sanctioning body has its own digital media network; negotiates major pacts for the sport, including media rights; and oversees the sport's charter system. The sanctioning body doesn't own teams or tracks, though the France family has a controlling stake in ISC, which has recently seen its stock price hit its highest level in nearly a decade.

So, how much would NASCAR sell for?

Estimates from the executives interviewed varied and are complicated by the fact that the sport would sell for more if the tracks were included. With the tracks included, estimates have typically ranged from $3 billion to $5 billion. By comparison, F1 sold for a combined $8 billion between equity and assumed debt, but no tracks were included in the sale. Sports Business Journal (subscription required)

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