February 26, 2001 CART Earnings Release An interview with: TOM CARTER and JOSEPH HEITZLER TOM CARTER: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for this fourth ...
February 26, 2001
CART Earnings Release
An interview with:
TOM CARTER and JOSEPH HEITZLER
TOM CARTER: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for this fourth quarter and year-end earnings report. Joining me this afternoon is Joe Heitzler, Championship Auto Racing Teams' president and chief executive officer, and Rachelle Fergan, our investor relations manager. Before I turn over the presentation to Joe, let me remind everyone that with the exception of the historical information discussed in this presentation, the items discussed are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those predicted in the forward-looking statements. Championship Auto Racing Teams, Incorporated, has set forth these risks and uncertainties in its registration statement for its initial and secondary public offerings which were filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Joe is going to discuss his activity since becoming Championship Auto Racing Teams president and CEO, then I'll go through the details of the fourth quarter and summarize year-end results, then we'll address your questions. Please excuse Joe's voice this afternoon. He's battling the flu. He's going to stick with it as long as he can. With that, let me introduce Championship Auto Racing Teams chief executive officer Joe Heisler. JOSEPH HEITZLER: Good afternoon, everyone. I understand from the conference call operator we have over 100 participating in this call today. If I begin to cough, I apologize in advance. I've been battling the upper respiratory and the flu for the last four or five days. What I thought I would do today, this is the first time I have an opportunity to talk to the analysts for CART, that I would bring you up to date on the key issues that I've been focusing on during my early days here at CART. The No. 1 thing that we're focusing on is maximizing the shareholder value by taking CART to the next level. First we've been focusing on building a team. We believe that by building this team, that people performance will create operational performance, which will create the financial performance. To date, we've identified a theme here internally at CART, and it's called "We, together and us." We've begun the process of identifying with all of our key stakeholders, those being the business associates here at CART, our sponsors, the drivers, the team owners, the track promoters, the media, and the ever important fans, and also the ever important manufacturers of tires and engines to CART. We started a process with the aid of an outside marketing research firm where we have a process in place called SWAT. That acronym stands for "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats." We felt that by building a consensus of a go-for-it strategic plan with all of our key stakeholders, this would be an opportunity to build a consensus-driven strategic plan. We have met to date with our internal business associates of the SWAT program, our sponsors have participated in it, the drivers are doing it before the first race in Monterey, Mexico, as well as the team owners. We've done it with the track promoters and we've done it with the key manufacturers. This is Phase I of developing an overall strategic business plan for CART. The key questions that we're asking ourselves in the SWAT analysis is: What is CART's current position in motor sports? What should be CART's vision for the future? What strategy does the vision require? What initiatives should CART launch to achieve those strategies? Then how should CART allocate its resources to best execute these initiatives? The CEO objectives that I've given myself are to create a strategic business plan that will sustain a positive growth trajectory for CART. Number two, to drive the associated revenue matrix to auto racing benchmarks that have been established by NASCAR and Formula 1. To explore partnership as sponsorship adjacencies that will grow and secure CART's base business as we know it today. Then an objective of building a world class team with stakeholders being involved in the strategic business plan. The deliverables that these stakeholders are looking for, the team leader CEO at CART, is a vision for CART at full potential, a data-driven growth strategy, a comprehensive action plan, and the implementation and execution support that's going to be necessary to carry out this business plan. I would like to report to you today that the reception of the initial phase of this involvement of all stakeholders has been well-received throughout all the stakeholder groups. I'd like to say that the word that's coming back from all of the stakeholder groups is, "We are involved in our own destiny together with CART." It has resulted in, for the first time, prior to the Monterey, Mexico, race, the cooperative efforts. You'll see for the first time a special supplement in the USA Today national edition prior to the Mexico race. Having given you this overview of what we've been doing since I came on board December 5th, is building a team, preparing a long-term strategic business plan, and getting all of the stakeholders involved in that strategy, I'm sure there will be questions, but at this time I'd like to turn it back over to Tom. TOM CARTER: Thank you, Joe.
Next I'd like to take you through our fourth quarter results. Total revenues for the fourth quarter were $14.5 million compared to $11 million in the fourth quarter of 1999, an increase of $3.5 million or 32%. Sanction fees were $7.1 million compared to $4.5 million in the fourth quarter of 1999, an increase of $2.6 million. We held three races in the fourth quarter of 2000 compared to two races in the same period in the previous year. Sponsorship revenue was $5.3 million compared to $4.1 million in the fourth quarter of 1999, an increase of $1.1 million or 27%. Just like to remind everyone that CART records sponsorship revenue on a pro rata basis over the calendar year including the ISL minimum guarantee. Sponsorship revenue reported for the fourth quarter includes the ISL guarantee. Television revenues were $875,000 compared to $476,000 in the fourth quarter of 1999, an increase of $399,000 or 84%. The increase of primarily was the result of running an additional race in the fourth quarter of 2000 compared to the same period in the previous year, and advertising revenue from our television magazine show Inside CART that we had in 2000 but did not have in 1999. Other revenues were $876,000 compared to $1.5 million in the fourth quarter of 1999, a decrease of $670,000 or 43 percent. The decrease was primarily attributed to a decrease in royalty revenues and other miscellaneous revenues. On the expense side, total expenses were $17.9 million compared to 7.3 $million, an increase of $10.6 million. Let me run through the line items that make up the major expense variances from quarter to quarter. Race distributions were $2.4 million compared to $1.6 million in the fourth quarter of 1999, an increase of $811,000. The increase was primarily due to running one additional CART Indy Lights and Atlantics race in the fourth quarter of 2000 when compared to the same period in the previous year. Race expenses were $2.2 million compared to $1.1 million in the fourth quarter of 1999, an increase of $1.1 million. The increase was mainly due to the addition of two new departments, the pace car and timing and scoring departments, and additional personnel in race operations and logistics. We also ran, as I said previously, one additional CART Indy Lights Atlantics race in 2000. Administrative and indirect expenses were $6.5 million compared to 4.4 $million in the fourth quarter of 1999, an increase of $2.2 million or 50%. The increase was due to an increase in marketing, advertising and public relations due to an increase investment marketing initiative in the timing of our 2000 programs. Additional sales costs related to having an additional race in the fourth quarter of 2000 also contributed to the increase. That debt was $6.3 million with no corresponding expenditure in the fourth quarter of 1999. This non-recurring charge is in regards to a 1998 contract with ISL Marketing AG that granted ISL the rights to be CART's exclusive marketing agent for solicitation of sponsorship agreements. The contract guarantees CART a minimum amount of sponsorship revenue for each year of the agreement. The contract also requires any shortfall from the minimum guarantee to be paid by ISL. After discussions with the top management at ISL, it has been determined that ISL does not intend to fulfill the remaining years of the agreement under its original terms. The company is taking a conservative approach by reserving the entire receivables in the fourth quarter, while maintaining its rights under the contract and continuing to pursue a (inaudible). Interest income was $2.2 million compared to $1.3 million in the fourth quarter of 1999, an increase of $915,000. This increase was primarily due to higher interest rates in 2000 and the reinvestment of cash flow from operations. That loss for the quarter from $754,000 or five cents on a diluted per share basis compared to net income of $3.2 million or 20 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 1999. I would just briefly like to go over and summarize our year-end results. Championship Auto Racing Teams recorded total revenues of $75 million, which is a 9% increase over 1999. Total expenses were $58.8 million, which is an increase of 33% over 1999. Net income was $15.2 million, a decrease of $3.7 million from 1999. And earnings per share on a fully diluted pace basis were 97 cents per share compared to $1 in 1999. With that, we're going to open it up for questions.
Q. If we could explore this sponsorship issue. I'm a little unclear when you say "settlement," does that mean the ISL agreement will not be with you going forward? Two, can you give us some idea, Tom, of what maybe the difference is between what the guarantee is currently and what you're actually earning? I have another question, but I'll let you take that one.
TOM CARTER: Well, I believe your first question was in regards to a settlement. We do not have an agreement with ISL, so, you know, we're not in a position to say whether we'll have a relationship with them on a go-forward basis. We have tried to negotiate with them, and right now we do not have an agreement with them. What was your second part of that question?
Q. Well, if we look at the 2000 numbers, you booked roughly $21 million in sponsorship revenue. TOM CARTER: Right.
Q. Trying to get a feel for some guidance going forward. You know, what is or what was the number that ISL actually guaranteed either this year or last year? Maybe you could simply tell us what you guys are actually booking yourself in sponsorship revenue, ex of the ISL agreement? TOM CARTER: Well, the shortfall from the guarantee was the $6.3 million, if that answers your question.
Q. So would that imply that sponsorship revenue would be in the ballpark of $15 million in '01?
TOM CARTER: Well, we're not talking about '01. We're not ready to give guidance on '01 as yet. We'll be doing that later this month so we will be able to discuss that further at that time.
Q. My second question is for you, Joe. It's a question that routinely pops up in these calls. You guys have a fair amount of cash on your books, as I'm sure you're well aware of, and a stock price that at least in many observers' opinion is relatively undervalued. Could you enlighten us on what you think, what your thoughts are in terms of share repurchase and whether it's been discussed, so forth?
JOSEPH HEITZLER: We have discussed share repurchase, and we'll continue to consider that, but we have nothing to report on that specific point at this time. TOM CARTER: As far as what we're going to be doing with our cash in the future, we need to develop our strategic plan and then we'll be able to give you more guidance on how we plan on investing that in the future.
Q. Tom, you said I think the ISL guarantee was $20.5 million, if I remember right, from the filings. That would imply that you earned $14.2 million in sponsorship. $20.5 million, and the difference comes from what you're earning. What do you have currently booked? Have you gained sponsors for '01? Have you lost sponsors?
TOM CARTER: We have gained some sponsors and we have lost some sponsors for '01. As I indicated previously, we're going to be giving guidance on 2001 at the end of March. We are in the process now of developing our strategic plan and fleshing that out. After we have done that, we are going to be coming back to you and giving you more guidance on 2001.
Q. Pardon for being a little short here, but, I mean, the first quarter (inaudible) through the whole year. It seems very unreasonable that you guys couldn't get some broad guidance right now, especially, you know, with the ISL agreement, if you totally discount that, just some general guidance as to where sponsorship is. I guess secondly, also, if you could give us an update on where TV is at this point, I mean, progression there. TOM CARTER: Well, to answer your first question, you know, I know everyone is disappointed that we're not giving -- in a position to give guidance on 2001 at this particular time. Currently our sponsorship is similar to what we had contracted for in 2000. Joe can give you -- your second question was in regards to where we are with TV?
Q. Yes. An update on where things are there. JOSEPH HEITZLER: First of all, let's deal with it domesticically. We will soon be able to discuss in greater detail, we're in the process of finalizing some negotiations, multiple negotiations that are taking place as we speak. We'll have an announcement to make shortly on the domestic end. On the international side, we are finalizing an arrangement for European broadcast and we'll be able to make that announcement in the next 10 to 14 days.
Q. In the domestic portion, Joe?
JOSEPH HEITZLER: That's probably going to run out another two to three weeks.
Q. So by the end of March? JOSEPH HEITZLER: Yes, sir.
Q. Any update, gentlemen, on the venues as far as replacement of Rio, I guess the status of several of the venues where sanction agreements expire at the end of this year, Toronto, Michigan, Vancouver?
JOSEPH HEITZLER: One of the issues we're dealing with in our long-term strategic business plan is the proper not only selection of venue cities for the future, but also existing venues, to make sure they fit into the economic and the television and the sponsorship plans. As I mentioned, when we've been going out and getting -- for the first time, I'm being told by all the sponsors and track promoters, we are putting together a program that they're actively participating in. But I think one of the recent pieces of details that we're working on is to regain our Labor Day weekend for a US street race.
Q. The Denver papers seem very confident it will be there. JOSEPH HEITZLER: I'm very confident that we will come to an arrangement that will see us with Dover Downs and the City of Denver. We should be able to shortly make that announcement on that race.
Q. By the way, Montreal appears to be a very good venue also that you gentlemen have put together for '02.
TOM CARTER: We're very excited about going to Montreal. It's a proven race market, Formula 1 race there, proven race fans. We do think that's going to be a very successful race. Just to talk to you about some of the venues, Toronto, we're in the final stages of negotiation there. Laguna Seca, we have a letter of agreement. We're moving forward there.
Q. Letter of agreement being signed? TOM CARTER: A signed letter of agreement, correct.
Q. And Michigan and Vancouver? TOM CARTER: We have nothing to report on those two venues as yet. JOSEPH HEITZLER: Before you go, I think the most important part of your question is that the stakeholders and the sponsors and the track promoters, with the organizing sanctioning body, CART, we're all in the same page and in the same book as to how to make this a more viable marketing entertainment property. I think that's the importance of how we're attacking the strategic aspects of the venues and their location.
Q. Just to follow on that conversation. Should we assume there could be some change in your planned marketing expenditures then for 2001 when we talk again at the end of March?
TOM CARTER: Changed from what?
Q. Well, from a historical trend I guess would be the fair way to put it. TOM CARTER: That would come out in our 2001 guidance. We're still working on that. We really can't comment on what our marketing investment will be, but I think we're probably in agreement with everyone that we need to invest in building our brand and building our marketing plan. We will be able to provide you with that plan later in March.
Q. In terms of the Denver, following up on the Denver comment, you're in the joint venture there, I understand. How is that going to work? What's the structure? The articles that came out said you were tentative, which you referred to as not a done deal yet. What will be different in terms of the way you've approached events? JOSEPH HEITZLER: Back to the earlier question. I think the most important part of the aspect of the marketing issue, what our focus here is is to strategize the cooperative marketing dollars that have been allocated for all the sponsors, track promoters and CART. When you see a six-page supplement in USA Today, you need to know that that is the first cooperative effort by -- we have in our SWAT analysis asked very specific questions about how much all of us are spending on marketing, publicity, promotion, merchandise, et cetera. The aspect here is a cooperative effort. I think when we report back to you on the guidance issues, you'll see where we're going to be coming up with marketing plans where we're going to be focusing on the distribution of these funds on a cooperative basis, not on a singular basis. I think you'll see the efficiencies of those co-op dollars will be well-received. On your second question, we have not finalized all of the aspects of the relationship. We anticipate those being finalized soon on the Denver issue. We're not going to deviate from our existing sanctioning fee arrangement other than what Dover Downs and CART can bring to the promotion. For instance, Dover Downs can bring their bleachers, their safety barriers, they can bring the bridges that go over the track, et cetera. I think those are the joint venture issues that we've been discussing.
Q. In terms of other relationships that you have, in terms of the royalties, is any of that related to Quokka and CART.com? Have you got issues with them, as well? TOM CARTER: None of the royalty shortfall was in regards to Quokka. It was in regards to expiration of certain licensing agreements, expiration of certain minimum guarantees that were contained at the beginning of certain licensing contracts, but it was not in relationship to Quokka.
Q. In terms of Quokka, how would you term that relationship at this point in time? TOM CARTER: Well, I think how I would term it, it appears Quokka has some financial issues. You know, how that pans out, I couldn't answer that question at this point in time.
Q. Couple pieces of advice, I guess. A, I wouldn't release your earnings at 5:30 on Friday night. TOM CARTER: Let me answer that. We had a couple of issues, a couple of big issues, we were trying to resolve and settle. We wanted to give as much time as possible for those to be settled. We don't normally announce at 5:30. There wasn't a plan to do that other than we wanted to allow for as much time to get these issues resolved as we could.
Q. A related one is I would not let the analysts be the people who break bad news for you, not that they're doing it for you, but it was Tim who was really at the forefront of breaking the ISL news. I think it would serve the company's best interests to be ahead of that in the future. TOM CARTER: You have to understand that we have contracts with these companies and we have to make certain that we don't breach or break these contracts.
Q. I understand. As related to that, I was wondering if you could go into a little more detail as to just what in your contract with ISL is allowing them to step away from it. Do they not have the balance sheet to do it? TOM CARTER: I'm sorry?
Q. Do they have the balance sheet? What preparation was made to make sure that these people could honor this agreement? What's being done to make sure they do honor the agreement? You signed a nine-year contract with these people. Two years into it they decide that they want to get out of it. If you could share with us what your recourse is, what was done originally to make sure they had the ability to pay. They were entering on an undiscounted basis a $200 million contract with you. I assume there was some very serious due diligence as to their ability to pay that. TOM CARTER: We did do due diligence. They were a major player in the market. They do happen to be a private company, so their financial statements weren't available to us. They do have World Cup soccer. They do have tennis. They do have a lot of big property rights besides CART. It's our understanding that we are not the only ones that, you know, are having some difficulties with ISL.
Q. What in this contract allows them, if you could share with us the following, to walk away from a $200 million contract? TOM CARTER: We don't think there's anything in the contract that allows them to walk away from it, and we're going to pursue all of our alternatives in regards to the contract.
Q. Are there alternative people willing to step in at this point to assume that contract? JOSEPH HEITZLER: From a legal point of view, we wanted to make sure that we did nothing to interrupt and/or breach the agreement with ISL. In so doing, it was -- that is part and parcel of why we gave them every opportunity for the full week to comply with the terms of the existing contract. Now that those terms have not been complied with, we have several options available to us and we are going to exercise those options in talking to other firms that represent major sporting rights properties and sponsorship endeavors. We'll begin doing that Monday morning.
Q. Is there any news associated with Rio, either in securing a new venue and/or replacing it with somebody else, somehow bringing -- just bringing that to fruition? JOSEPH HEITZLER: That's a great question. We're endeavoring to do everything we possibly can to keep Rio on our schedule. We, as you know, have a tremendous amount of Brazilian drivers, who are fast becoming, if not already, national heroes in Brazil. We have a tremendous number of Brazilian sponsors who sponsor these drivers. We also have the Brazilian television market which represents a very credible exposure for us. We here and through our stakeholders, even as recent as yesterday, with a major sponsor, we are trying to find ways in which to resolve this issue.
Q. Is the company willing -- essentially the issue is the guarantee of the sanctioning fee, which the City of Sao Paolo didn't forward to you. Is the company willing to enter into some sort of risk-sharing arrangement with Fittipaldi, et cetera? JOSEPH HEITZLER: First of all, with the City of Rio -- excuse me, in January of '01, they enacted a new law there called the Fiscal Responsibility Law, which gives the right of a new administration to look back in time to see if fiscal responsibility was exercised during a previous administration. If it was just a financial issue, I think we could have resolved all of those issues. However, the mayor would not give us access to the track. This caused a tremendous amount of consternation, especially when the FIA inspector showed up and he would not allow him to go to the track. That having been said, this part of the world represents a significant opportunity for CART, and we're going to exercise all good sound managerial judgment to exercise all of our options there.
Q. Tom had mentioned something about Laguna Seca, which I didn't quite catch. TOM CARTER: We were talking about renewals of venues. We've reached an agreement with them. We have a letter of agreement with Laguna Seca.
Q. Generally, Joe, is the strategy, if you do enough due diligence, there's quite a disparity in the sanctioning fees between, you pick the venues, Laguna and Australia. Pretty wide bookends. Is there a general strategy to do a little gin rummy here and upgrade the mix fairly significantly? Some of these venues have very low sanctioning fees, and some of them have quite high sanctioning fees. The question becomes, Is there an ability to try to move these venues to higher -- to places where there are higher fees per event? JOSEPH HEITZLER: Notwithstanding the importance of attendance and notwithstanding the importance of television ratings, I think the most important function here as the CEO is to maximize the shareholder value. Albeit some sanctioning fees might be higher, some lower, the exercise of a good strategic business plan, the margin on a lower sanctioning fee may deliver some aspects that are more encouraging, and you can build on a market. But we certainly are going to in our strategic business plan establish criteria associated with, one, how you grant a sanctioning fee to a particular geographic location; and, two, how you maintain the right to keep that sanctioning fee. That will be more of a strategic financial issue than it's been in the past. TOM CARTER: Can I ask if we can keep the questions to one or two questions so we can get more people the ability to ask a question?
Q. Looking at the races then for 2002, I know you talked about where you're going to add, could you make any guess as to the number of races we're looking at? 21, 22, 23? When may we hear on what the 2002 schedule will be? Two other questions, if I can. On your strategic development, can you talk maybe about what your plans would be for your developmental series and talk about what kind of ideas you have for those. Finally, Rockingham over in England, the construction seems to be going well. Could you talk about that, if there's anything that may delay the opening of that. JOSEPH HEITZLER: Let me make sure I have all those. Number one is the number of races, will that expand beyond or be reduced from the existing amount? Number two, when will we be releasing the schedule for 2002? To make a couple of comments on the developmental series. Number four would be the Rockingham track, kind of a general overview.
Q. Right. JOSEPH HEITZLER: On the number of races, once again, I think the thing that the analysts and Wall Street have been anticipating from CART is, one, the appointment of a CEO; and, number two, the development of a long-term strategic business plan. I think the number of races is going to be uppermost in the minds of all of us when we develop the strategic business plan. Having said that, a scheduled date for the 2002, that is something that I would have to -- I would have to get from our communications department. I could get back to you on that date. On the developmental series, we're seeing, during the course of some of our television negotiations, that the developmental series are of particular interest to some of the broadcasting entities that are interested in securing the broadcasting right to CART. Indy Lights and with Toyota Atlantic, I think you'll see some additional coverage of those two series. Also in the strategic business plan, we are going to incorporate a specific focus on a true embodiment of a ladder system for the Champ Car Series. I think the two issues are the marketability of the series is going to increase, and the fact that they'll become a more viable ladder system for the Champ Car Series. On the Rockingham track, a general overview is the key focus is obviously this is a precedent-setting issue for European car racing enthusiasts, and we are attaching to both Rockingham and Germany all the necessary marketing and promotional and broadcasting programs, realizing the importance of this as we move into a territory that's been to date the territory of Formula 1 enthusiasts. The track development is coming fine. We have retained a European public relations firm to assist us in these endeavors.
Q. One more quick thing. The $6.3 million charge for ISL, any chance you will collect on that TOM CARTER: As I say, we do not have an agreement or settlement with ISL at this point in time. We're going to continue to pursue either a settlement, and we're also going to look at all of our other options. I couldn't answer whether we will be successful in that, but we're going to certainly pursue that.
Q. Can you tell us what the shortfall was that ISL made up in 1999 of the $19 million sponsorship revenue? TOM CARTER: It was approximately $2 million.
Q. Second question, can you describe the mechanics of this ISL agreement and how sponsorship revenues are paid to you? Are they paid as a conduit to you? Who actually has the relationship with the sponsors? Do you believe the sponsors will abandon you if --? TOM CARTER: All of the sponsorship agreements are directly with us. ISL was just an agent for us. I'm blanking out on the other part of your question. JOSEPH HEITZLER: In answer to your second question about the relationships, one of the reasons why we did this call on Friday was I have just returned from a major trip visiting all of our sponsors to discuss these various issues and to make sure that those relationships are intact and are aggressive and progressing forward.
Q. Could you expand a little bit more on the cooperative dollars. Would this imply, as you said, Joe, that it's going to be more efficient for everybody, including you, including the sponsors, so everybody wins here? Also have you identified some areas where you could have some cost savings? Again, could your expense run rate be, you know, up in the mid single digits? Is that reasonable to assume? JOSEPH HEITZLER: I think what's reasonable to assume, let's take the example of the USA Today special section, I don't think any one sponsor would want to, and as we know in the advertising industry, the reach/frequency issue, I don't think that any one sponsor would want to aggressively approach that. Some of our benchmarks that have been set by other competitive auto racing entities, i.e., nASCAR, all of their special supplements have been cooperative efforts also. We see that as a way to maximize the involvement of all parties in the CART promotional program. I think on your second question, on the efficiencies of dollars and the ability to save, I think this is what we're looking at so that when we're going out and putting together all the promotional materials, we're perhaps maybe dealing with the same graphic firms, dealing with the same printing firms, when we're doing our signage, we're in a cooperative effort to maximize the exposure of the sport to the efficient expenditures of the dollars. It's been well-received.
Q. That sounds very positive. Back to Brazil real quick. Any potential timetable when you anticipate a resolution there or naming a replacement venue potentially for '01? The new television contract with Brazil, has that been signed? Is that in any way impacted by the cancellation of the Rio race? JOSEPH HEITZLER: I'll answer the second question first. The TV contract has not been in any way damaged or diminished by virtue of the race.
Q. Great. JOSEPH HEITZLER: Then, as I had said earlier, we're exercising all managerial capabilities in the full face of significance of Rio to our team owners, our drivers, to our Brazilian television partner. We'll continue to work in that direction. Q. Joe, you mentioned a moment ago you just spent the last few weeks meeting with sponsors. The logical follow-on question is, how do the sponsors feel about things as they stand right now? JOSEPH HEITZLER: The sponsors I think are very enthused -- not "I think." I know that the sponsors are very enthused with the SWAT process and I know that they are very enthused with the involvement process, and they're also very enthused with the advisory committees that are being set up, the various shareholder groups that will be part of the strategic business plan. This I know they're very excited about. Q. Is that because the sponsors themselves will have some sort of active day-to-day role in these new activities, even in kind of an advisory capacity, or just strictly as outside observers and sponsors obviously? JOSEPH HEITZLER: They will not be observers. They will participants in the strategy. Q. This includes the named sponsors, FedEx and such? We're talking that quality caliber, level of sponsorship? JOSEPH HEITZLER: Yes, we are. In fact, last evening from 11:00 to 1:30, I lived one of the true dreams of my business career. I was at the FedEx sorter center in Memphis watching the operation, watching logistics at its perfect best. Q. I hope nobody hit you with a bar code, tried to ship you somewhere. JOSEPH HEITZLER: I actually worked on a line. Q. Couple follow-up questions. Joe, have you talked directly with Tony George since assuming your current role? JOSEPH HEITZLER: I've met Tony George on several occasions. We were together at the ESPY Awards. I saw him there in Las Vegas. Yesterday, unfortunately, we saw each other at Dale Earnhardt's funeral in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Q. With respect to ISL and the legal recourse, is there anything contractually? Sounds to me like you're still on a Mexican standoff where you're not moving forward, but you're not moving backward. In the terms of the agreement, what's the next logical legal step if you're forced to sort of call in the lawyers and proceed from that point of view? Do you have any kind of asset recourse to any of their assets should they try to do a run and try to declare bankruptcy or something crazy like that? On a balance sheet basis, what sort of recourse do you have? TOM CARTER: First, I want to say we're disappointed in the entire ISL situation. It would really be premature of us and not a good business practice to disclose what our next steps are going to be. I'm going to leave it at that. Q. Tom, could you remind us again what the sanctioning fee ballpark was for Brazil. TOM CARTER: Well, we haven't disclosed that on an individual basis. We try not to as much as possible for, you know, competitive and negotiation reasons. It was an international event so it was one of our larger sanction fees. I'll have to leave it at that. Q. If the shortfall between the ISL agreement and the sponsorship that you guys had was two million in '99, and is apparently six million in 2000, could you talk a little bit about why there was that four million gap?
TOM CARTER: Yes. One, there was an increase in the minimum guarantee year over year. The other reason would be PPG dropping out as far as our PPG Cup sponsor.
Q. I know you'll give more formal guidance at the end of March, but if you're unable to rectify the situation at Brazil, and it appears that the ISL agreement is gone, is it conceivable we're looking at EPS year over year that's flat to down? TOM CARTER: Well, that would be depend on what our expenditures are and other revenue line items for 2001. We're going to have to wait till the end of March before we can give you guidance on that. Q. Joe, you talked a fair amount here about this SWAT analysis. Is there somebody that you've brought on board to sort of help you guys walk through this process or is this just something you've undertaken internally? JOSEPH HEITZLER: I had mentioned -- there are two answers. One, we have brought an outside marketing firm, research firm, that deals in these analyses. We are not bringing anyone on the staff at this moment. We have some people here who are very functional in the area of interpretation and how to go forward in the analysis of the data. We also, as I said on the collective, cooperative basis, because of the stakeholder participation in this program, we have access to business developers at some of our sponsor companies and some of our track promoter companies. We are sharing the data with all the stakeholders who have participated in this Phase I of the strategic business plan. Q. You're in the exclusive negotiating period with FedEx, if I remember right. Anything you can say there regarding the renewal of their overall sponsorship agreement that expires at the end of '01? JOSEPH HEITZLER: There's nothing specific that I can give you other than a positive go forward intention of FedEx to renew its sponsorship and expand on it with CART. Q. One other venue we forgot to ask about was Belle Isle. Any final determination there? Tom, housekeeping item, can you run through the outlook for DD and A and cap X, if you can? Any of the expenses you spent in the fourth quarter that were related to the one-time insurance settlement you received in the third quarter? TOM CARTER: We're still going to have to go back to going through our strategic plan and where we're going to be allocating our resources, so I'm going to have to put you off until the end of March to give you a better answer on that. Your other question was in regards to? Q. The expenses from the Hawaii insurance proceeds. How much of that was spent in the fourth quarter? I assume that's probably run through your admin line. TOM CARTER: Yes, it was. It was in excess of a million dollars that we spent towards that. It was spent in a co-promoter relationship with some of our promoters in the fourth quarter. I think Joe can expand on that a little bit more. JOSEPH HEITZLER: Each specific track submitted a request and then an implementation strategy statement as to how these funds could impact attendance, how it could impact direct mail, expand the radio and TV and print efforts, also to enhance the Hispanic advertising efforts, also on the hospitality front.
Q. Did these tracks use this money somehow during the fourth quarter or was it granted to them and you expensed it and they will apply that in the '01 season? TOM CARTER: No. These were for 2000 events. They also used it, you know, in different geographical locations depending on what they had participated in before, new media that they hadn't used before. It was new ideas and new attempts at reaching new fans and different fans. JOSEPH HEITZLER: Also in this area, the fourth quarter, some of those funds were expended on putting together strategic business plan for the movie "Driven" that will be coming out with Sylvester Stallone in mid April.
Q. Do you anticipate that type of expend -- do you anticipate giving that again to the tracks on a go-forward basis? JOSEPH HEITZLER: One of the issues that's going to be part of this cooperative strategic business plan is how we can identify similar funds like that to be exercised in 2001 on a cooperative basis.
Q. And then Belle Isle? JOSEPH HEITZLER: On Belle Isle, we've met with IMG and I am due in the next several weeks to meet with the mayor of Detroit to have specific conversations relative to Belle Isle.
Q. Tom, any difference in the change of the effective tax rate on the charge versus the ongoing operations in the fourth quarter? TOM CARTER: No. There's no change in that.
Q. About the ISL contract. Do I understand that contract working is they make up the incremental up to the guaranteed amount, so $20.5 million this year, they make the incremental? If sponsorship revenue is over $20.5 million, ISL under the contract would get the upside to a certain point, then they'd start sharing with you again, is that correct? TOM CARTER: That is true only on sponsorships that are covered under the ISL guarantee, under the ISL contract.
Q. Right. So at $20.5 million, let's say ISL was able to sell $25 million theoretically, gave you a $20.5 million guarantee, they would get the upside up to $25 million, so you would be capped out at 20 and a half? TOM CARTER: No. The way the contract read was that they -- over the minimum guarantee, they would have a certain amount where they could recoup their expenses, then over that amount it was a 50/50 split.
Q. Reading a press release, you mentioned the ISL write-off. Usually when you see companies talk about broken contracts, et cetera, there's a phrase in there that says, "We will pursue all avenues to maintain our rights under the contract." That was conspicuously absent from yours. It would lead one to possibly speculate, this may be a little off the wall, that you think you can get a better deal than what you have with them and not give up more of the upside. TOM CARTER: We're going to pursue all of our options that we have under the contract and we're going to look at all of our options that we have under the contract.
Q. All things being equal, you could get this contract back, get them to honor the contract, would that be the optimal solution for you? JOSEPH HEITZLER: The optimal solution is to place our shareholders in an environment where we can get maximum return on the investments that we make in the sponsorship area. If ISL is prepared to demonstrate they are the most strategic, go-forward, most effective company to do that, then we would exercise that managerial decision because it would be in the best interest of our shareholders. At this particular moment, we have some doubts as to ISL's ability to deliver on this, and therefore that's led to the present situation we're in. We are not the only company that is faced with a dilemma over what appears to be a flawed strategic business plan that ISL incorporated and initiated some four to five years ago.
Q. To be clear, before the ISL contract, you did this sponsorship in-house? TOM CARTER: That's correct. JOSEPH HEITZLER: That's correct. It was a most-effective utilization in that area.
Q. It was more effective, in retrospect, than how ISL has carried out their responsibilities under the contract? JOSEPH HEITZLER: I'm saying it was as effective.
Q. As effective, okay. At the beginning of my questioning, you said this obviously applies to sponsorships under the ISL contract, meaning you do sponsorships obviously on your own outside of the ISL contract, correct? TOM CARTER: Could be, yes.
Q. Is that carried out -- will that be carried out into the new, I guess, offices that are established in Los Angeles? JOSEPH HEITZLER: Yes. We have opened up a CART entertainment production office in Los Angeles a week and a half ago. We went on a search and retained an industry-savvy individual who knows entertainment, sports, production and track business, a gentleman by the name of Jay Lucas. One of his specific strategic initiatives will be to spend a lot of time in the technology sector in Silicon Valley and in the Hollywood entertainment community both for exposure for CART in that community and also for sponsorships in that area.
Q. Let's say the ISL contract was in force or is still in force, these sponsorships that would result from his activities would not fall under the parameters of that contract, I take it? JOSEPH HEITZLER: They would be in addition to.
Q. In addition to, right. Questions about the Denver agreements that have been floating around. It apparently is a eight-year agreement with a five-year renewal option. TOM CARTER: We've not reached an agreement. We don't have any agreements at this point in time, as we stated earlier.
Q. There were reports that it was a 13-year agreement. TOM CARTER: That's speculation.
Q. Is your intent to go towards longer-term agreements with the various tracks and venues rather than the normal short-term that you've been doing currently? JOSEPH HEITZLER: In answer to that question, in developing this strategic business plan, I think the length of a contract is going to be -- as I said, there's an established criteria of how you secure a sanctioning fee in a location. We're also going to have criteria in association with how you keep one. Obviously, one of them is that you're in a key television market where our sponsors' investments can be fully materialized. I think in this particular case, when we look at some of the rights fees that are being negotiated today, we would want to stay in tune with some of the contracts that we see being done today. So when you see four- and five-year deals done, we'd like to make the sanctioning fee synonymous with the extension of the TV contracts, so we're not in the middle of a sanctioning fee contractual obligation, and it is not in tune with a broadcast rights contractual obligation. I think that would best serve the criteria for a particular location and promoter.
Q. So then the future trend to determining the length of a sanctioning agreement is going to be look at all the other arrangements that there are and make them coincide? JOSEPH HEITZLER: Yes. The coinciding is going to be an essential issue because we don't want to go to a city because someone had a personal relationship, we don't want to go to a city because it's by the ocean. We want to go to the city because it meets the requirements of a specific criteria and it keeps that sanctioning fee because it's met the criteria and it continues to grow.
Q. After you've finished your planning process, are you going to be making that information available, what the criteria are for determining the length of a sanctioning agreement and so on? JOSEPH HEITZLER: I think they would become probably part of -- every year we have an annual meeting with sponsors and with track promoters, the media, et cetera. I think it would be well-publicized at those events. The stakeholders are going to be part of the development, they're going to be part of the development of the criteria.
Q. You mentioned Laguna Seca a couple times. Each time you use the word "agreement." Do you have a year-by-year agreement with them? Do you have more than one year? Second thing, what is your position with the crew chiefs and the drivers for the HANS project that's available now? TOM CARTER: As far as Laguna Seca is concerned, the letter of agreement we have is for three years. I'll let Joe talk about the HANS device. JOSEPH HEITZLER: I appreciate your question. Obviously the HANS device has become a very well-mentioned and now very sought after piece of technology. Unfortunately, its publicity has been through the unfortunate aspects with Mr. Earnhardt. We are fortunate in this particular case with Dr. Hubbard and Dr. Olvie (phonetic) to have been in the forefront of the development of this technology. We feel very fortunate that Dr. Hubbard is part of our CART effort. We have made the HANS safety factor a prerequisite at ovals for CART. Obviously any development of continued safety and technology associated with safety is foremost in our minds here at CART, as I know it is in our fellow promoters of auto racing throughout the world. We're very fortunate to have that, as I said.
Q. Do you know how many drivers in CART used it last year? JOSEPH HEITZLER: I think it was in excess of 12 to 15. That's something that I would check with racing operations. I can specifically get back to you with that. TOM CARTER: I'd like to take this chance to thank everyone for joining us this evening. I know it wasn't a prime time for everyone. I really appreciate the attendance and the questions. We will be getting back with you shortly in the next three to four weeks with some guidance on 2001. Look forward to talking with you. Thank you.