DETROIT (December 4, 2000) - Joseph F. Heitzler, whose well-diversified business background includes executive-level positions at National Mobile Television Productions, CBS Sports and Forum Sports Entertainment, has been selected as Championship Auto Racing Teams' new president and chief executive officer, CART Chairman James Hardymon announced Monday.
Heitzler, 56, was the unanimous choice of the Board of Directors of CART (NYSE-MPH) and was signed to a multi-year contract by the open-wheel sanctioning body. He replaces three-time FedEx Championship Series champion Bobby Rahal, who served as the interim president since June 16 following the resignation of chairman, president and CEO Andrew Craig.
"The opportunity to merge a passion for open-wheel racing with my business experience fulfills a life-long dream. I am extremely honored to have been chosen by dedicated leaders of this industry to lead the CART team into its entertainment sports future," Heitzler said from CART's Troy, Michigan-based headquarters. "I will strive to have all of our key groups - from investors, team owners and drivers to sponsors, track promoters and our management staff - to work as a team with the singular goal of providing an enhanced sports entertainment product to our dedicated fans. With our fans' dedicated participation, we will continue to grow and prosper among the rapidly changing and new sports entertainment mediums."
The selection of Heitzler concluded an extensive six-month search in which more than 40 qualified candidates were reviewed from various fields including sports, entertainment and auto racing.
"The board performed a very extensive and thorough search in a professional manner to identify who would become CART's new president and chief executive officer," said Hardymon, who chairs the Board. "Mr. Heitzler's resume and presentations were outstanding and led to the unanimous decision from the board."
Heitzler arrives at CART from National Mobile Television Productions, Inc., where he served as president and chief operating officer since 1998. The company provides mobile broadcasting facilities to more than 8,500 live sporting and entertainment events, including auto racing, NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, NCAA and the Oscars and Emmys pre- and post-shows. He was involved in all revenue-generating activities including all mergers and acquisitions, the most recent acquisitions being ABC Sports Production's assets and CTV Broadcasting of the United Kingdom which provides mobile production facilities for PGA golf and Formula One racing.
Heitzler served in this capacity with National Mobile Television Productions after he sold his company - VTE Mobile Television Productions - to Oaktree Capital Management (which later merged with NMT, Inc.) in 1998. VTE, in which Heitzler was chairman and CEO, was a television production company he purchased in 1985 from businessman Jack Kent Cooke, the former owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kings and Washington Redskins, and transformed into a multi-million dollar power in the industry.
Prior to his venture into mobile television production, Heitzler cultivated an accomplished executive-level resume from a variety of fields including sports, television and entertainment. Among the highlights are executive positions with CBS Sports, Forum Sports Entertainment, Six Flags, Inc. and Travel Lodge International.
Heitzler's background in television began in the mid-1970s at CBS Sports. As a senior management production executive during his tenure, he was a key component of unprecedented ratings growth from 1974-78 in open-wheel racing, the NFL, NBA and NCAA as well as responsible for establishing a brand marketing identity for CBS Sports. He also assisted in the production of USAC, Formula One and the inaugural Grand Prix of Long Beach auto-racing broadcasts for the network.
Following CBS Sports, he served as president and CEO for Forum Sports Entertainment, the broadcasting entity for all Los Angeles Lakers and Kings telecasts, from 1979-82.
Prior to those two positions, he served as senior vice president of marketing, communications and entertainment for Six Flags Inc., an entertainment theme park company, from 1971-74. Earlier, he served as vice president of marketing for Travel Lodge International from 1969-71 and oversaw the sponsorship of Dick Simon's Champ Car racing team.
From a personal business perspective, VTE Mobile Television Productions was one of two companies he owned in his career. In 1982, he also founded Sports Communications, Inc., a sports marketing communications firm that represented 17 of the 33 sponsors at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He later merged the company with Burson Marstellar, where he served on its Worldwide Sports Advisory Board.
Currently, he is a member of the board of directors for the California Community Bank Corp., a $2.4 billion asset, community bank holding company. As one of the founders, he serves as chairman on the compensation committee and auditing. He also is on the board of the Alpine Christian Conference Center, a mountaintop retreat in Southern California that benefits inner-city children.
Heitzler, a California resident the past 25 years, has a wife, Saundra, and three children, James, Chad and Sean.
Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE:MPH) owns, operates and markets the FedEx Championship Series. Champions Gil de Ferran, Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser are among the drivers who battle for the FedEx Championship Series title on oval circuits as well as temporary and permanent road courses. CART also owns and operates its top two development series, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and the Toyota Atlantic Championship. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.cart.com.