T.E. McHALE: Welcome to a special CART teleconference and thanks to all of you taking the time to be with us today.
Our guest this afternoon is CART's new president and chief executive officer, Chris Pook, who was elected to his new position by the CART board of directors this past Tuesday afternoon.
Good afternoon, Chris. Congratulations. Thanks for making some time with us today.
CHRIS POOK: Thank you, T.E. Nice to be here. My apologies for being ten minutes late here, but your other colleagues in the media have been asking a lot of questions over the last hour, and I've been trying to accelerate the answers to them.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks, Chris. It's good to have you with us.
Mr. Pook, a native of Somerset, England, joins CART after building a record as one of the most successful race promoters in the business. He founded the renowned Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 1975 and has built it into one of the crown jewels on the FedEx Championship Series calendar. He most recently served as president and chief executive officer of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, Incorporated, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dover Downs Entertainment. Mr. Pook was also a driving force behind bringing CART back to the streets of Denver, Colorado for next year's Denver Grand Prix, scheduled for Labor Day Weekend. Mr. Pook is a member of the board of directors of the Los Angeles Organizing Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games. He is co-chair of the local organizing committee for the 2004 U.S. Olympic swimming trials and is chairman of the board of the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Mr. Pook and his wife, Ellen have three grown children: Daughter, Michelle, and sons David and Andrew.
Before we begin taking questions I want to offer Chris the opportunity to make a few introductory remarks.
CHRIS POOK: Thank you, T.E.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Again, my apologies for keeping you waiting for ten minutes.
This for me is indeed a unique opportunity. The CART product is a great product. I have been involved with it firsthand since 1984. The fact that we have a race series that has a combination of road courses, street courses and ovals, really, is a true test of a racing car driver and of his team and the engineering that's needed to support that racing car driver.
I think when CART crowns a champion, he is a true champion. I think the combination we have today of the predominance of races in North America; that is, Canada, Mexico and the United States, coupled with -- with our races in Japan and Australia and England and Germany, I think makes for a very, very good marketing vehicle for not only multi-national corporations based in this country, but also multi-national corporations in those countries.
I think the challenge for us over the next weeks and months is to create the right atmosphere, the right environment, so that our sponsors, our teams can do business effectively; that our promoters can do business effectively; that our series sponsor, FedEx, and the other sponsors in the series can do business effectively; and our manufacturers and suppliers can get the return on the investment they seek as a result of their investment in the series.
So, that's really the goal and the mission immediately. And the first part of it all is to assemble here in Troy -- I wouldn't say assemble, but I would say realign the management team and the staffing for that management team so that we have a very, very effective group of people who are reading off the same sheet of music, executing on the same game plan, communicating among themselves and communicating with all of the constituencies that make up what today we know as Championship Auto Racing Teams and its series.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks, Chris. With that, we will begin taking questions.
Q. A lot of people are curious about the future of the CART series, seeing the way the economy is and the popularity of NASCAR. Do you feel like you almost have to quote, unquote safeguard at this point?
CHRIS POOK: No, I don't take that position at all. This is not a question of saving CART. This is just a question of realigning some of the assets of CART, and I'm talking about the human assets of CART, so that we can make them effective and let them do their jobs in a more constructive and successful manner.
So this is not an issue of saving at all; it's just a question of moving the dominos around on the board.
Q. All of us that know you or think we know you always said you would never take this job under the current structure. Can you talk about the assurances you have been given -- I mean, the biggest lie we have heard for the last 22 years is that the board of directors are going to let the CEO of CART do his job and it's never happened. What assurances do you have that you will get to do things your way?
CHRIS POOK: I have been given no assurances nor asked for any assurances from the Board. I am an adult, CEO, and I know what I have to do as a CEO of this company; and I serve the board of directors; and I will do what I've got to do to make sure that the board of directors approves the business plan that we bring before them and approves the process and the goals and the objectives and the strategies that we present to them.
Now, the makeup of the board has changed a bit in a year, and I think that's probably what you're alluding to. And the interest in the company by outside shareholders has changed considerably over the last year here; perhaps that's also what you are alluding to. But I can tell you that I have not gone in and demanded any of these bits and pieces that people seem to allude to, and it would not be appropriate, I don't think, for any CEO to do that.
Q. As a follow-up, you've got Jerry Forsythe resigning from the board, and you've got Pat Patrick and the other owners saying, "We'll get out if it makes the thing work smoother." Is that what it's going to take to finally get this thing to work smooth?
CHRIS POOK: You know, every company always has a ratio of inside directors and outside directors. We are a public company; and therefore, we need to follow the rules of a public company. So we do need outside directors, but by the same token, we need inside directors because we are in a somewhat technical sport and we do need those inside directors to give balance to our board and to give knowledge and information to the outside directors.
So, I think that the foresight of Jerry Forsythe and even Pat volunteering, and maybe there are some others to step aside, particularly with maybe some conflicts of interests in the senses that they are promoters as well, I think that that is very healthy and very magnanimous of them. I think that obviously it is much easier for them to recognize that maybe there's a conflict, versus other shareholders having to point out the conflicts.
I think, you know, we need to go forward with that philosophy; that we need to conduct ourselves like a public company. And as well, recognizing that we are in a technical business. I mean, it's really no different than GE -- I don't want to compare CART to GE, but they have a certain number of outside directors and a certain number of inside directors; and I think that's where we need to be, in a similar sort of situation, a similar sort of ratio.
Q. Going forward, what are your thoughts as far as the direction in race venues and the direction they were taking looking to build the brand by considerable spending over the next couple of years? And secondly, any commentary that you could offer regarding things out there; that there are several promoters seeking a reduction in existing contract sanctioning fees?
CHRIS POOK: Well, let me get the first one out of the way first. It's really quite easy.
We've got a good product and we are going to be market driven. When I say, "Market driven" I don't necessarily mean venue market driven, but sponsor, manufacturer, supplier market driven. We have got to understand from our manufacturers and suppliers where they want to be, sponsors, FedEx particularly, where they want to be; what works best for them, and we have got to come up with the right combination.
That is not to say that any one group is going to dictate the direction of this company, but we are going to be very sensitive to those requirements of that constituency and we need to be responsive to that constituency.
So, I think that is what's going to drive this company, the direction of this company. Obviously, I have to take that philosophy to our board and get our board to buy in on it, but they are very, very intelligent businessmen and they understand this sort of thing. I think they will agree.
Now the issue of the promoters raising a little Kane -- you know, I'm an old promoter and I know what raising Kane is about. I understand what they are saying. I will work with them. I will help them. We will put the right team work in place here to give them the support that they need. After all, they represent 52 percent of the revenue to this company, and we are going to address that issue and we are going to reach out to them.
Some of them, with all due respect -- and I have said this before I got into this job -- have caused some of their own problems. Be that as it may, it's our job to help them out of those problems. Others are interested in pushing the business envelope a little further. Me, too. I'm interested in pushing the business envelope a little further.
So, we will be happy to sit down and talk to them. In fact, I think later on today we are going to talk to them as a group on a conference call. And I am not get into the business of addressing their issues individually on the conference call, but I will in the next few weeks address them all individually because each case I'm sure is unique. And we'll see what we've got to do to fix their complaints. We'll analyze their complaints and we'll fix them and we'll move forward.
Q. Would you look towards potentially moving towards more of a business model as outlined with the new Denver agreement, or would that be on a case-by-case basis with some of the standard sanctions, fee arrangements still in place and others moving towards that Denver-type business model?
CHRIS POOK: I think you have to take every single one on a case-by-case basis. I think just to do a blanket statement across the board would not do justice to ourselves as a sanctioning body, and least of all to those promoters. I think you have to talk to each one individually and analyze what their issues are and how we fix their issues.
Q. One of the criticisms -- one of the strong criticisms of CART is being that the organization has tended to lack people with a deep knowledge and experience of the racing business. You, obviously, bring that to the table, and you are renowned around the world as well as across the USA. This is, obviously, one of your strengths. You work with Formula 1, with CART, with NASCAR as well, all of these various constituencies. How do you see that particular strengths, is that one of your biggest strengths, and are there any other people with considerable racing experience on the technical end or wherever that you see bringing into the organization?
CHRIS POOK: I don't know quite how to respond to you on the issue of my strengths. I just do what I've got to do to get the ball across the goal line. I mean, I think you know me long enough to understand that I set targets in business and close on targets. That's how I do business. That's how I was taught, and the formula has worked fairly well for me over the years, and I think most businessmen do the same thing.
With regard to technical side of this business and how we go forward, yes, I think that we have got some good technical people here right now. But I think we need to backstop some of these technical people with another level, and I don't mean -- I mean, technical/technical level. I mean also business/technical level. Our technical folks cannot bury their head in the sand and say, "We don't have to worry about these issues of being sensitive to suppliers and sponsors and things like that. We are just technical people, and all we worry about is shock absorbers and going fast or making the cars really safe," and stuff like that.
We have got to have folks that are sensitive to the issues; that, yes, this is a business environment; yes, this is a sport we are in. But this is a business sport. This is a sport that is driven by money; and when it is driven by money, you have to be sensitive to the issues of the folks who bring the money; and that is: The spectators, the television folks, the supplier, the manufacturer, and the sponsors.
So we need to -- all of us. Every single person that works in the company and every single person that's out there in our sport, needs to be sensitive to that and needs to be sensitive to the perception of how we are perceived and what our product looks like and how we present our products.
Are we making it easy for the public to understand? We just can't be sort of saying, "Gosh, we are racers; therefore, we are above all this stuff." We have got to stop and say, "Are we bringing the right product in logical, understandable manner to our audience, our constituencies." We have got to look at ourselves and say: "Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe we have got to fix stuff." That's where we've got to be.
The presentation of this product has got to be fun for everybody, and it's got to be fun for the recipients, as well.
Q. If I may follow up, internationally, CART continues to have a pretty strong reputation. It's huge in Canada, shown itself in Mexico, a great European reputation, Japan, Australia. And it also tends to have much more vigorous international media coverage, particularly print media coverage, than what has occurred over the past five or six years in the USA where the print media coverage, in particular, has really fallen off. It's the domestic position of CART which seems to be the big problem. Internationally it seems to be in strong shape. Do you share that view, and what would your strategy be to begin to improve its domestic position in the media, as well as at the gate?
CHRIS POOK: I think that's fair enough. I think you're very close there.
I think that one of the things that's happened here in the United States is that -- I mean, the remarkable, extremely well presented plan that NASCAR had to take their series to the heights it has gone to has probably eaten up a lot of media time in this country. And, gosh, you know, they deserve to get it because they are very good at what they do.
I think on our side, probably the disagreement between the Indy Racing League and CART has probably not helped. I think, also -- and I want to be delicate here how I say this. But I'm not sure we here in Championship Auto Racing Teams have done the best job of projecting our product to you guys in the media; making sure you understand that; and I think we might have fed you some stuff that was negative to us; and therefore, you lost a lot of enthusiasm and interest.
But I mean, that's what we are going here today. We are trying to create a management team, a cohesive management team that understands clearly what the goals and objectives are. And we'll get on down the road. The past is the past, it is what is it and it's not going to change. We have to look to help and how we are going to fix it and that's what we are going to do.
Q. I would just begin by asking that by my count there are 78 days between this afternoon and the start of practice at the Monterrey race in Mexico, and wondered, what are your priorities? What can you get done in those 78 days between now and the start of the season?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I think I've articulated already, the most important thing is put the management team together and outreach to the constituents of our sport. That's what we have to do.
And we have to present the image of what CART is going forward. We are clearly going to solve the engine situation for 2003 onwards. We are going to solve the chassis situation. I say "we"; that's our teams and ourselves. We'll get those things out of the way.
We are going to hit the road running. We are running today. We know what we have got to do. This is not a complicated sport. This is a pretty simple industry we are in. We've just got to grind it out. We've got to present to our teams and our sponsors, our manufacturers, our vision and let them have confidence in what we are presenting to them; and let them buy into what we are presenting to them; and get on board with us and get our arms around each other and get on down the road.
And 78 days is fine. I'm happy with 78 days.
Q. I think there's certainly been a degree of speculation regarding the new relationship or the relationship announced in the release yesterday about the Preferred Promoter Status between CART and Dover Downs. I wonder if you could perhaps provide any particular illumination on what that actually means, and what, if any, assurances can you give the other promoters that this doesn't really -- that this doesn't represent a threat to them?
CHRIS POOK: About seven or eight months ago -- actually over about a year and a half ago, CART came to the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach and they said they wanted to do some other circuits -- Andrew Craig's administration -- and Andrew identified what they were, and we went about that. We started off with Denver and we got Denver in place. Now we are on the other markets.
I think Preferred Promoter Status is an interesting terminology. I don't think that Dover has certainly in my eyes any more preferred status than any other event promoter operator. If they come to CART and say, "I have an event at XYZ," we will go through the process here and evaluate it; and if they can make it work and have the sufficient financial capability to do it, then we're clearly going to listen to them.
I think the unique thing about Dover is it is a public company where it is a half a billion dollars; it has got a lot of liquidity; it has got a lot of wherewithal to it. I think in Denver, they demonstrated to Championship Auto Racing Teams; they were prepared to put their money where their mouth is; get the job done; get the contract from the city; step up and buy the safety system and all the necessary stuff and move on down the road with CART.
I think we are not adverse -- and our chief financial officer is sitting here with me, and he is shaking his head saying, "Yes, we are not adverse to anybody who comes in the door here." It is just that for whatever reason there was a member of Dover's management team and got aggressive and said, "We wanted to do some street races in other cities."
And CART said, "We won't do that."
So, there it is. I think CART is open for any promoter to come in the door and get aggressive and bring his checkbook with him.
Q. I don't mean to get into a personal level, but in terms of incentives on your contract with CART, what sort of equity interest do you get in CART in the term of the contract to provide you with incentives to stay around long enough and go through all of the work necessary to make the improvements that have to be done? And second, in the last month or so, there have been a few things that haven't gone quite as expected, maybe; Mr. Penske's departure, the TV contract, the engine -- I hate to call it fiasco -- but situation, I guess. Are any of these problems correctable, and which of them do you see yourself tackling first?
CHRIS POOK: Thank you very much, but nice try. In the public companies we have things called 10Q and 10Ks, and I'm sure you'll be reading that 10Q and 10K real carefully. So, forgive me for not answering that.
But I can tell that you, you know, -- I think we've already gone through the question of what about -- I think Robin asked about, Did the directors lay down and die for you to come in the door? Absolutely not. These are directors of a public company and conduct themselves in the proper manner they should representing their shareholders.
I am a CEO that got hired and I have a job to do, and if I don't do the job, I will be out of the door. It's as simple as that.
TV, everybody is bashing this TV thing and I don't agree with this. Let's just stop and think for a second. Six or seven years ago when the FOX Network came on board: "No, doom and gloom, will never -- would never compete with ABC, would never compete with CBS, would never compete with NBC. It will be a disaster. It won't work. Terrible, terrible, terrible."
Well, where is FOX Network today? FOX Network today has got ABC, NBC and CBS all paying considerable attention to what FOX Network is doing. The FOX folks know what they are doing. The FOX folks have just acquired Speed Vision, what is now Speed Channel, and they are going to fix that segment of this property they bought and bring it up to the level, what the standard is; and the standard is what FOX Network is because FOX Network is setting the standard in sports now.
Certainly, they have hired a fellow called Terry Linger out of Indianapolis, Linger Productions, who is probably one of the most knowledgeable television production guys in this country. And he will be able to interpret what our sport is, this sport of Indy car racing or champ car racing, as we call it over here in CART, what this is all about; and he is going to transmit that to our audience, be they sitting in a grandstand seat or sitting on their couch at home watching what we do.
Third point. We will for our aficionados, our diehard fans, bring them practice and qualifying on Friday, practice and qualifying on Saturday, as well as a race on Sunday; 64 percent more programming going out to the sports audience.
FOX Speed Vision will grow the number of households. Think back, only two or three years ago, everybody is saying ESPN2, no good. It won't reach enough households, impossible, the Deuce is no good. Now guys are fighting to get on the Deuce because they have reached the household level.
So don't underestimate FOX because FOX is going to get there, and they are going to get their faster than anybody thinks they are.
Finally, we have seven shows on CBS, network shows, and we will build our racing programs from there. We will build them in partnership with our television companies; and we will listen to our television companies; and we will listen to our sponsors as to what they want to have on television; and we will adjust our game plan accordingly to meet the needs of the expectation of the people who at the end of the day drive this business; and that is, the general public.
Q. Since it went public, CART has had a substantial amount of cash sitting on the balance sheet for which it never seems to find any use. Do you have any ideas of what you could use that cash for?
CHRIS POOK: Helps you sleep at night.
I don't think that we need to be charging out and throwing money against the wall. It's premature for me to answer that question. I need to understand more fully exactly what we've got to do in here for 2002. I need to understand more fully the policy and will of our board of directors. Probably it's my responsibility to bring some game plans to our board of directors for them to give us advice on.
If you think that we are going to rush out and start burning through cash here, that's not going to happen. We are going to be very prudent how we go forward, but we are going to be very decisive, be very effective, and we're going to have a very, very simple plan of execution. We'll execute in a very efficient manner.
[BREAK HERE] Q. CART just took a pretty good hit with Penske leaving, and the perception is that the organization is in trouble; that may or may not be, but the perception is that it is. How do you intend to rectify that situation, and how can you make up for losing a man whose name is almost synonymous with CART?
CHRIS POOK: That is a very fair statement. He was one of the founders with Pat and Gurney and he was one heck of a competitor. Let's not forget is was only a year back that Roger was having a terrible time having his cars run up front, run in the middle of the pack, and at one point even qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. And this is with all due respect to Roger because he is an incredibly capable guy.
But don't cast the other guys in the CART series out of the window, we have got some solid citizens in this series, okay, and some really quality guys. Just look at the number of the winners we had last year in the CART series. There were 11 different winners last year in the CART series.
So, you know, I know that all you guys are in love with Roger, and rightfully so, because he is a very capable man and he is a tremendous leader in American business and in American sport, but don't underestimate our other guys. We are moving on. You know, it's sad to lose Marlboro; it's sad to lose Roger. We're all going to lose tobacco in 2005. But meantime, the window looks open for Brown and Williamson, the players brand, and we will now focus on those folks and we will see what we can do to create the right environment so they can create the right business and thrive with CART until the government stops them doing business with sports in this country.
Q. Earlier you were very clear on this reported mandate that you had been given to remove team owners from the board of directors --
CHRIS POOK: No. I didn't say I had a mandate to remove --
Q. Reported mandate, I'm sorry.
CHRIS POOK: No, no. The board of directors and the shareholders -- the shareholders decide who is on the board of director, not the CEO of the company. The shareholders will decide who the board members are, and the board members who do not want to serve there, they will decide to either not run or not serve.
But the CEO does not say who runs on the board of directors of a public company. I want to be very, very clear.
Q. It's also been reported that they were interested in seeing you become CEO, or at least one or two of them; and they were also interested in resolving or curtailing the powers of the Franchise Board. Do you have any comment there?
CHRIS POOK: No, I don't. I mean, I can't comment on that -- the Franchise Board is a unique situation here and I think it played a very unique role in the growth of CART.
The Franchise Board as we know it today -- and I am only talk from management's viewpoint here. I am not talking on behalf of the board and I want to make that very clear to you.
Management's point of view, the format as we know the Franchise Board today does need to be changed, but we do absolutely need to have the input of our car owners into how we do business. They make up a very, very important part of the product called CART.
As also, do we need the input of our race promoters; they make up a very important part of the product called CART and we need the input of our sponsors and manufacturers, as well.
You know, I think that we have to create a balance here and we have to have a communication process. We have to listen to the constituencies. We have to all come together to find the right solution, and I think it's very possible to do it. It's been done before, and we'll do it again.
Q. In response to the Speed Channel television coverage, did I hear you correctly that there will be Friday and Saturday qualifying this year?
CHRIS POOK: It is my proposal to go back to our team owners and suggest that we have a qualifying period on Friday.
Q. What about the St. Petersburg area appeals to you and CART at this point?
CHRIS POOK: It is the largest street area in Florida, larger than Miami and that's of interest to us. Number two, if you look at the circuit that's been laid out there, this circuit has potential to be a truly, truly romantic circuit. It has the waterfront area, the harbor there that we can build into a mini Monte Carlo. The city itself is unique, the architecture -- street circuits are made up of unique bits and pieces that create a character to each street circuit. St. Petersburg has all of these ingredients necessary, and it has the market adjacent to it in order to deliver what we need to deliver to our sponsors suppliers, manufacturers, media and our audience.
Q. As you've alluded already, CART has become much more of an international event, especially with the third week up here in Canada, a second one in Mexico and in Europe. Do you see the series continuing in this format?
CHRIS POOK: Again, I don't want to be repetitious here, but we are going to be driven by what our constituencies want. If they want to have a race in Podunk, we'll go to Podunk and have a race if it made sense to our teams and all of our constituencies.
I think the combination of North America, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. makes a very, very good combination; and as I said before, overseas races add a flavor to it. And the fact that we have international drivers is also very important. We have got two good Mexican drivers in Michael Jourdain and Fernandez; two good Canadian drivers in Tagliani and Carpentier -- do you want to take credit for Tracy or should we have him down here?
Q. Well, he's born in this town.
CHRIS POOK: But he acts like a kid from Phoenix sometimes. (Laughs). Anyway, I'm just being facetious with you.
I think we have got a good Brazilian core of drivers and I hope that we'll have a very good English driver and Australian and German. Young Dixon, believe it or not, was born in Australia but raised in New Zealand. He's the youngest guy to ever win a race last year for us.
You look at that combination, and I think the chemistry is good and I think that -- you know, I'm not going to sit here and tell you now that we are going to go on and get all kinds of other international races. We're going to -- we are going to, we are going to reinforce what we have here right now and get that right before we step across the ice some more.
Q. One of the criticisms of CART, one of the reasons some see it as having problems is the lack of a major event, i.e., the Indy 500. Do you think that is necessary, an event that belongs solely to CART and do you plan to propose such an event?
CHRIS POOK: I don't think I plan to introduce such an event and there could never be another event like the Indy 500. It is the Indy 500. It is what it is and it is a wonderful event and deserves every bit of recognition it gets.
What I would remind you is that before there was this supposed split between the Indianapolis 500 and CART, CART drivers used to run at the Indianapolis 500, and you've seen the last two years CART drivers go back to the Indianapolis 500. I think that we want to be able to be sure is that our drivers have all of the flexibility in the world to go participate in the Indianapolis 500.
And for us to go out and try and manufacture an event and the attempt was to try to compete with or be like the Indianapolis 500, it would be a very poor, bad, strategic mistake on our part.
Q. Well, as long as it belongs to the IRL, do people look at the IRL as having the marquis event of open-wheel racing in North America?
CHRIS POOK: Probably they will, yeah. Absolutely. Why not? And why shouldn't they? The IRL has their product; it is an oval series and we are not. We are a completely different series. We are a multi-national series comprised of different disciplines, racing on ovals, road and street courses. And the only one comparative item is that some of our guys who race on ovals who like ovals will be able to go and race the Indianapolis 500.
I am hopeful that some of the IRL guys will want to come over and race with us, and I am hopeful that some of our guys will race in more IRL races. That's really our position.
But, you know, I don't think we need to reinvent the wheel here.
Q. CART has lost some of its U.S. oval venues in the last couple of years and the most successful events are road and street races, Long Beach included. Are you going to try to build the U.S. oval presence for CART and use what you learned from events like Long Beach to try to rebuild their stature?
CHRIS POOK: Absolutely. We are going to rebuild the oval events, get after them and build them up. And we will use the basic disciplines that the successful road courses and street events have and the successful disciplines that some of the oval events have. We'll build these with team work between ourselves and our promoters, our racing car drivers and our teams and our sponsors. Not a complicated process to put backsides in seats. We have just got to be disciplined and make it attractive for our customers to go to.
Q. Do you foresee CART strengthening its relationship with ISC to try to run on some of the ISC ovals that have been dropped from?
CHRIS POOK: Clearly, we want to build our relationships. We don't want bad relationships with anybody. That's not what we are about. All of us in the motor spots business, we are in too small a segment of the marketplace to be throwing rocks at each other or yelling at each other and not getting along.
What happened with ISC was very unfortunate. I can't speak to it at all. It's not by business, not my watch. I was just a little old promoter at that time that those particular thing happened.
But are we going to outreach to ISC? Absolutely. Are we going to outreach to IRL? Absolutely. Are we going to outreach to American LeMans series? Absolutely. Are we going to outreach to SECA? Absolutely. We are here to cooperate with folks and build relationships and move forward. We are not here to heave rocks and bury our head in the sand.
Q. There's talk of doing a possible joint race with the ALS in Miami; I would like to get your opinion on such an event. And will you be looking as a proposal?
CHRIS POOK: I will be looking at every single proposal that comes in the door.
Miami is a great market and we need to evaluate it carefully. We also need to be sure that what we've got on our plate we execute properly and we don't overextend ourselves here in the immediate future.
But the answer is: Yes, we will look at that, as we will with any promoter that wants to come in the door here and offer us a concept or idea or proposal. Absolutely.
Q. Do you feel there's enough time to do an event in April given where we are today?
CHRIS POOK: What capacity are you asking me that? As my ex-employment or current employment?
Q. I guess both. Do you think there's enough time to promote the event to be a CART race, as well as an ALS race, given the date?
CHRIS POOK: Lead time in putting on a circuit event, the single most important element there is. It's all about planning and execution. And when you do a temporary circuit event, do you it in somebody else's environment, a city's environment, you have to have the public sector totally on board with you as you go down the road to do the event.
So to try, in my opinion as -- in my 20-some years, 27 years in a temporary circuit business, to go in and try to do a new temporary circuit event in four months would not be the most sensible thing for the promoter to do, let alone this company to involve itself with.
That's not to say in the future with the right planning and the right put-together, we would not be interested in doing it.
Q. Do you have any plans on running this business out of southern California, which is your home, or do you plan on moving to Detroit, or do you plan on moving the CART office?
CHRIS POOK: I'm staying in Troy.
Q. Do you see Las Vegas somewhere on the horizon for either an oval race at the Speedway or a street race?
CHRIS POOK: Some are on the horizon. A street race would be very hard there in Las Vegas. I can't tell you the number of times I've been to Las Vegas in the last ten years to do street race concepts.
If we run on the oval, it will be at the pleasure of Mr. Smith and Speedway of Motor Sports.
Q. Seems like one of the things you stress is any venue you promote, you want the promoter to come to you with a proposal.
CHRIS POOK: Forgive me. No -- no. What I'm saying is that I think that question was asked in line with the Preferred Promoter Status, and I was answering it in that context of the Preferred Promoter Status. We will identify -- this company has identified markets it wants to go into, and as the timing is correct and our constituents are comfortable with it, we will then go after those markets, but we are not going to did it in a vacuum.
Q. What is your opinion, the most experienced promoter in the country with Las Vegas, do you think Las Vegas could support a race at the Speedway -- it wasn't able to do that in the other open-wheel circuit.
CHRIS POOK: It's all in how it's promoted and how it's presented. I think that's the real question here. I think Las Vegas would be a fun place to go do an event. Whether or not -- whether or not we could compete with the casinos and the machines and the tables; that is the question.
This is not like boxing. NASCAR has been very successful there and you've got to hand it to them. I believe the NHRA was successful with their event there.
I think we have to evaluate the market very carefully, and if we go to that market we would have to do it with; A, Smith's blessing; B, we would have to create some major strategic alliances within the Las Vegas casino community to make sure that we were getting folks out to the race and folks in the casino at the same time.
Q. Mr. Heitzler was very interested in eventually having a CART headquarters located in Las Vegas. Could you comment on your thoughts about that?
CHRIS POOK: I think Las Vegas would be a wonderful place for a headquarters. But we are in a motor racing business as a primary business, and I think we might be a bit of a loner sitting out there in Las Vegas in this type of business.
Q. Are you going to move to Troy?
CHRIS POOK: I'm in Troy.
Q. Are you going to live in Troy?
CHRIS POOK: Yeah, I'll maintain a residence here in Troy.
Q. We were just wanting to know, when are you going to report that Forsythe resigned from the board? We have not seen it in a press release.
CHRIS POOK: Well, you've reported it already on this conference call, so it's academic.
We will file the necessary paperwork as it's appropriate for us to do.
Q. When did he resign?
CHRIS POOK: Yesterday, I think. I think we got it today.
Q. Has anyone else resigned?
CHRIS POOK: Not that we know of, no.
Q. I have a question regarding the international television deal and how it is shaping up and what the timing of the agreement is as far as the announcement. And also, with regards to what was mentioned earlier about developing shows on CBS and developing the audience, what cost do you think will be associated with that development, and are you going to continue to pay for CBS to air your races?
CHRIS POOK: The agreement calls for us to buy time on CBS and we will honor that agreement and we will support that show with the necessary advertising.
Now, your question concerning overseas television, we enjoy very good overseas television currently in Brazil and Australia. I think that we are in the process of putting together our overseas television package. We are taking a different tact towards that this time around because we have to recognize that we do have events in a certain number of countries and we really want to maximize our relationship with the event promoters in those countries in the appropriate television in their respective countries.
We will take a different perspective, but overseas television will be a very, very important part of our strategy.
I am not prepared to address it at this time and probably won't be able to address it until after a business plan is approved by the board on January 22 or 23.
Q. One thing about relationship with the press. The series calendar, which obviously cannot change for this year and probably not too much fiddling for 2003, the racing season opens up off-shore. Yes, Mexico is NAFTA, etc., Etc., But speaking to news outlets and AP, if something doesn't happen in the U.S., it gets short shift. And the season championship was clinched over in Australia; are you going to address these issues sometime down the road, because every other U.S. based series starts in the U.S. and ends in the U.S.?
CHRIS POOK: For 2002, it is what it is.
As we reposition the series, which we are doing, you will see change come forward in that area for 2003 onward, but I can't talk to those changes today. I can just tell that you when we present the goals and objectives to our board, this area will be covered.
Q. And a request. We don't get Speed Vision or Speed Channel on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
CHRIS POOK: Call Mr. Whoever It Is and tell him to get it in there.
Q. The markets you have identified as ones maybe you would like to go to, is Phoenix one of them?
CHRIS POOK: I think Phoenix is a great market. We had some of the greatest CART races in Phoenix that you've ever seen. I mean, those guys do, 19-second flats for God's sake. The most amazing piece of racing you've ever seen.
I think Phoenix is a fabulous market. I think Phoenix International Raceway is one of those racetracks that has the lore and feeling and atmosphere of uniqueness about it. It is just truly incredible.
So, would we like to be there? I'm sure we would like to be at Phoenix. Can we fit it or will we be invited; who knows?
T.E. McHALE: With those glowing words about Phoenix, we'll wrap it up this afternoon. We want to thank Chris Pook for the afternoon.
Before we end for the day, I'd just like to say thanks to our WorldCom operators, Brenda, Dawn, Jaime and Janet for being with me on these calls over the past five years. I'd also like to thank those of you who took the time to join us on a regular basis over that same period. I wish you way wonderful holiday season and I hope our paths will cross again soon. Thanks, and good afternoon.