NASCAR has reportedly reached out to an investment bank to explore a sale of the sport
Fresh off their shiny purchase of the ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR could be up for sale. It’s been a rumor for years. But, those rumors are a little more serious this time around.
ESPN is reporting that NASCAR has reached out to investment bank Goldman Sachs to explore a sale of the sanctioning body.
Why would NASCAR be for sale?
Attendance: First off, it’s struggling with attendance. The combined 2017 NASCAR attendance revenue was $215.1 million. It’s been in a steady decline for the past 10 years. $251m is a drop of just over 50% from 2007.
Sponsorship: Next is the sponsorship of the series. Recently, NASCAR signed a 1 year extension with Monster Energy as the title sponsor of the premier series. That deal will extend through 2019.
However, that deal was late to the table. It came after multiple deadlines had come and gone. After several extensions, Monster Energy elected to renew for just a single season. Beyond that, they expected not to renew.
Beyond 2019, NASCAR is exploring alternative options for entitlement sponsorship. Instead of just one company at the top billing, they’re considering a tier of companies. They plan to loop sponsorship of the series in with the tracks and the races themselves.
What does that mean? I’m not entirely positive. It’s vague because it’s still on the drafting board at the NASCAR offices. But, I’m pretty sure it means that it will become the NASCAR Cup Series presented by… with the presenting sponsor changing on a week to week or track to track basis. That’s only a guess but it’s unlikely we’ll see another name change to the sport.
That’s actually ideal as the lack of a primary sponsor is currently a huge blow to the sport. Creating the tiers will make the entitlement deal far less important to the health of the sport. Tiers would divid the price tag across multiple companies, lowering the price tag for all. At the same time, if 1 drops out maybe there’s 9 more left. That’s not a massive deal like it is now.
It’s great, in the long term. Bad in the short term as the sport will likely see a sponsorship revenue decrease in 2020. The formation of these new tiers would likely take a few years to form a solid footing.
Brian France: Has anybody seen him?
The CEO of NASCAR is rarely at the race track these days. Why? I’m again, not sure. But, he absence doesn’t tell any of us that France is thrilled about his job at this point. People who love their job, come to work.
“If I could make one change it would be that the leader of the sport is at the race track every weekend,” Keselowski said back in February upon being asked if he could change one thing about NASCAR.
The absence of Brian France leads me to believe he’s done with the sport. In addition, he was also tied to a possible purchase of the Carolina Panthers, though NASCAR completely shot that down.
Jim France: He and his wife Lisa France Kennedy are listed as the sole owners of NASCAR. Jim turned 73 in October.
There’s one of those as well. It’s not all negatives.
However, again, it’s a long-term positive. 18-34 viewership was up in 2017. That tells you the sport is generating a new audience, they just might not be coming to the race track in droves yet.
Who would buy NASCAR?
Stock: In recent months, Humpy Wheeler, the promoter of Charlotte Motor Speedway discussed the possibility of a NASCAR sale. His idea was more along the lines of a public stock offering. NASCAR could go public and trade on the stock exchange. That would offer a very large payoff for the France family.
Marcus Smith: Another alternative is Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports Inc and the son of Bruton Smith. He’s become very active in steering the SMI properties in recent years. Recently, his bid for the Carolina Panthers fell through.
Comcast: As ESPN said, it could also be Comcast.
Liberty Media purchased Formula 1 with the idea of banking on the television broadcast. They have grand plans of steering the sport from a digital perspective. Within months of their purchase, F1 joined Facebook. Believe it or not, the most technically advanced division of motorsports was all but absent from social marketing until that point.
Comcast is already invested in NASCAR. Their Xfinity brand is the entitlement sponsor of the support series. A purchase of NASCAR could give Comcast the broadcast rights, in time.
Two weeks following this update, the NASCAR CEO has offered a comment on the topic. After the success of the NASCAR All-Star race, France confirms he’s focused.
“We’re locked and loaded. We’re doing our thing. We’re very focused on what we’ve got to get done. That’s all. No comment necessary,” Brian France told ESPN.
Related: 2017 ISC financial report