Ray Evernham has finally announced what seems to have been common knowledge for a number of months. He has formed a new partnership between his NASCAR team and American businessman George Gillett Jr, forming Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which will come into effect immediately.
The somewhat surprise in the announcement is that Evernham has sold majority ownership to Gillett, and what has not been said is if this is an admission that team ownership and sponsorship hunting is too difficult, or if this is Evernham looking to the future and cashing in now.
Evernham said that after almost six months of negotiations, the deal will open up a raft of new opportunities for both “partners”, as Evernham will now have time to focus on the competition side of the company, while counting on the expertise of Gillett on the business side.
It will be interesting to see how long Evernham sticks it out under the new arrangement. It’s one thing to own a team, but it’s a completely different story to become a minority partner in a team that you have built with your own sweat and tears. Gillett is a business mogul that I am sure has no intentions of managing the team day to day himself, so Evernham will now find himself answering to a manger put in place by Gillett, something that he may not take to very well. Of course Gillett could leave Evernham in charge, but with his stated aim of getting back to the engineering side, that does not seem likely.
Maybe Ray should see out whatever time he has to stay, sell the rest of his stake and start a one car team for Erin Crocker headed by himself as a satellite for Gillett racing, after all the first “real” woman driver in NASCAR should open all sorts of new doors.
For his part Gillett owns the Montreal Canadiens National Hockey League (NHL) team and co-owns the Liverpool Football Club in the English Premier League, plus other business interests including Gillett Entertainment Group, a company that produces entertainment and sporting events atvarious venues through Canada and the US.
“It’s very exciting for me to deliver to sponsors and fans the opportunity to align with a worldwide sports leader,” said Evernham, CEO of the new partnership. “With the business acumen of the Gillett family and its sports brands, we’ve greatly expanded our reach.
“This will allow me to focus on our racing operations and team performance, while the Gillett family will focus on our business operations. It certainly allows us to capitalize on our strengths and position GEM for long-term success both on and off the track.”
Gillett then commented
“Racing is in my blood. It’s not often you get to partner with a leader with Ray’s reputation, talent and championship legacy.”
This “merger” of companies follows hot on the heels of the merger between Roush and Fenway earlier in the year, and also last weeks “merger” (read buyout) of Ginn Racing by DEI, but it is a little different as by selling a majority stake it brings in a new owner from outside of traditional NASCAR ranks, and may be the first in long line of power players in other sports getting involved in NASCAR, which could spell the end of the little guy in NASCAR, something that NASCAR was founded on.
Maybe it’s time for NASCAR to take a quick look over at Formula One to see the problems Formula One and the FIA have been going through in the last few years as they tried to dictate to companies much larger than themselves. ALthough NASCAR is a huge concern, in the business world it is not a powerhouse, and if enough large companies come in NASCAR could find it’s grip on the sport it created under fire, as money talks.