George breaks silence on changes

Updated: July 10, 2009, 2:21 PM ET
By John Oreovicz | ESPN.com

Indy Racing League founder Tony George has finally broken his silence about his decision to relinquish leadership of the organization.

In a statement published Friday on his IndyCar Series team's Web site, George said he did not feel the Indy Racing League CEO position offered to him by the board of directors that runs the Hulman-George family companies -- a job in which he would have reported to a new president and CEO -- would allow him to lead the league effectively.

It was George's first public comment since the management shake-up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That shakeup, which stripped him of much of his power at the Speedway and at IRL, was announced June 30.

I did not feel that a subordinate position as 'CEO of the IRL' was a management vehicle which would allow me to accomplish the objectives that the family and the board requested me to pursue. I declined that position.

-- Tony George

George, 49, had served as president and CEO of the Speedway since 1989, and he performed the same roles for the IRL and Hulman & Company, the multi-faceted family business established in 1850. His duties have since been split between Jeff Belskus and Curt Brighton, a pair of executives with longtime ties to the Hulman-George companies.

"At a board meeting last week, I was asked to continue as CEO of the Indy Racing League, reporting to a new President and CEO of IMS," George said. "In my view, this would have created an unnecessary bureaucratic layer between the people in the operations of the IRL and the CEO of IMS that had not previously existed.

"From the perspective of my experience as President and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I am acutely aware that the interests of IndyCar racing as a sport, the IRL as a league, and the most important motorsports race in the world, are mutually dependant and inter-connected, both now and in the future," George said. "I did not feel that a subordinate position as 'CEO of the IRL' was a management vehicle which would allow me to accomplish the objectives that the family and the board requested me to pursue. I declined that position."

George maintained that he has and will continue to have an active role in shaping the future of the IRL and the IndyCar Series.

"While my service as CEO has now ended, I consider my stewardship to be a life-long appointment," he said. "Since our May board meeting, as requested, I have offered my advice to the board on management reorganization, but also and perhaps more importantly, a reorganization of our board, which would provide a structure for better governance for generations to come.

"It is my belief that, with the recent unification of open-wheel racing, the focus should be on the future rather than the past. In the near future, I will be providing a proposal for the board to evaluate," he said.

George also said there will be no erosion of support for the Indy 500, the IRL or open-wheel racing from the Hulman-George family or its companies.

"There have been many questions raised in the industry and in the media about whether any of these recent changes reflect a reduction in the commitment of our family or the IMS to the IRL or the sport of IndyCar," George said. "I have been assured by my mother that no such reduction of support or commitment is intended or anticipated. I can assure teams, sponsors, media and fans that our family is sincere in its commitment to the Indianapolis 500, the League and the sport."

George's mother, Mary Hulman George, is chairman of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

George has declined individual interview requests to date and Vision Racing stated that he wishes to continue to limit his communications regarding this matter to statements posted on the team's Web site.

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.

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