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George steps down as IRL, IMS head

6/30/2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony George has stepped down as president and CEO of the Indy Racing League, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his family's business.

"He [George] chose not to continue as CEO of the IRL," executive vice-president of communications for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Fred Nation told ESPN.com's John Oreovicz. "He is no longer active in the management of any of the companies. He is on the board of directors of all the companies, along with the other members of his family. And of course the board is the ultimate decision maker."

The board of directors of the speedway and Hulman & Company announced Tuesday that a new management team will take over the Hulman-George companies effective July 1.

The Hulman-George family has run the speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500, for six decades and also owns the IRL and Clabber Girl, a baking-powder company based in Terre Haute, Ind.

Speedway board chairman Mari Hulman George, Tony George's mother, said it is in the best interests of everyone that her son concentrate his efforts on the IRL -- primarily, she said, as a team owner.

"We are pleased that he will continue to be an important part of the Indy Racing League as a team owner and as a member of our Board of Directors, and we wish him every success," she said in a statement.

Hulman George did not directly address whether George would continue to run the IRL's day-to-day operations. No other IRL executives were available for comment.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, George refused to comment, saying he would release a statement next week.

Longtime IMS executives W. Curtis Brighton and Jeffrey G. Belskus will take over the leadership roles, with Bright, currently executive vice president and chief legal counsel, becoming president and CEO of Hulman & Company. Belskus, currently executive vice president and chief financial officer for the companies, becomes president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.

"Our board had asked Tony to structure our executive staff to create efficiencies in our business structure and to concentrate his leadership efforts in the Indy Racing League," Hulman George said in a statement. "He has decided that with the recent unification of open-wheel racing and the experienced management team IMS has cultivated over the years, now would be the time for him to concentrate on his team ownership of Vision Racing with his family and other personal business interests he and his family share."

Tony George reportedly was asked by the family-dominated board of directors to step down in May, the week after the 500. But he said at the time, "Contrary to published reports, I continue to serve as CEO of IMS."

The reprieve was short-lived.

George has spent hundreds of millions or dollars in the past 13 years to make track renovations and keep the IRL afloat.

The statement indicated the family businesses are not in trouble, but the speedway and IndyCar series have been cutting back. Over the past six months, about 60 staff jobs were eliminated, and George's wife, Laura, who co-owns Vision Racing with her husband and actor Patrick Dempsey, lost her job as an adviser.

Construction for a road course, new press tower and new Pagoda cost about $100 million. Those facilities were built for a Formula One race that is no longer held in Indy.

He also broke with tradition by bringing NASCAR and Grand Prix motorcycle to a track that had only hosted one race each year, the Indianapolis 500, until 1994.

But the cost to keep the track in good condition can be astronomical.

"This place wakes up every morning and eats money," George said in May. "We spend a lot of money keeping it in the condition we do. Certainly the Indy Racing League has in the past required a lot of capital to keep it going when there was two competing series -- and a lot of money was spent last year trying to unify."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.