NASCAR Media Teleconference, 9/15/03 An Interview with: BRIAN FRANCE BILL FRANCE MIKE HELTON GEORGE PYNE Part 1 of 4 JIM HUNTER: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. It's my pleasure to be here this afternoon for this news conference. ...
NASCAR Media Teleconference, 9/15/03
An Interview with:
Part 1 of 4
JIM HUNTER: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. It's my pleasure to be here this afternoon for this news conference. At this time I'd like to introduce NASCAR's chairman and CEO, Mr. Bill France.
BILL FRANCE: Thank you, Jim. Today it's with great pleasure and pride, I am happy to announce the appointment of Brian France as the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of NASCAR. Brian has worked long and hard for this opportunity, just as I had when I took over the reins from my father. He's earned his chance, and I know how important that is to him and to me.
Brian has worked in about every area of the company, including running a racetrack, and he has exceeded my expectations each time. And I am a pretty tough critic.
Brian is prepared and ready to lead our sport and company into the future. The fact of the matter is, the NASCAR board would not have selected Brian for this role if we didn't think he was capable. There's too much at stake.
In the past few years, we have seen a lot of changes for the betterment of our sport. We've seen a lot of innovation and new thinking. Many of these innovations happened because of Brian's prodding and passion for our sport.
The role of a CEO and chairman is to be forward-looking, anticipating the challenges of tomorrow. Brian fits that role for NASCAR, and that's why I am recommending him to take on this new challenge.
He will be surrounded by the same world-class executive team, Mike Helton, George Pyne, and of course the NASCAR board. Mike and George's role will remain the same as they are now, and they will continue to provide valuable advice and counsel to the board and to Brian.
I am very confident that Brian will represent the France family tradition well, and I believe he is the best person to lead NASCAR to new levels of greatness.
Brian, it's with great confidence that I pass the torch to you. I look forward to your leadership.
JIM HUNTER: Thank you, Bill. At this time I'd like to introduce the president of NASCAR, Mike Helton.
MIKE HELTON: Thank you, Jim. I'd like to join all others in congratulating Brian on his promotion. I've said before, and I feel as strong today as ever that I don't think that any family has had such a positive impact on any sport anywhere as the France family has had on motorsports. I'm very grateful for them to allow me to be a part of it.
I know the things that I've learned by having Bill as a mentor has been invaluable to me. But the many years that I've known Brian, I can see how much he's learned by having Bill as a father, as well.
Brian's rise to the chairman and CEO of NASCAR is a natural evolution, an evolution of his experience, his accomplishments, and ability. I look forward to working with him and being as committed to him as I have been to Bill.
JIM HUNTER: Thank you, Mike. At this time I'd like to turn it over to NASCAR's new chairman and CEO, Brian France.
BRIAN FRANCE: Thanks, Jim. This is a great day for me. I just want to say that I'm excited, I'm motivated, I'm ready to do anything I can to make sure NASCAR keeps moving forward.
Also I'd like to thank my father for the confidence, he said that in his remarks, that he has in me. I certainly hope I don't let him down.
I also understand the tremendous responsibility that's being entrusted to me, and I don't take that lightly. I do have, as everyone knows, great respect for this sport, the diverse group of people that make this sport so special and make it go.
I do share the vision, beliefs and traditions of my father and his father before him, that above all this sport has to continue to grow and get better. "Grow" to me means several things. It means focusing on our core product, which is delivering thrilling, exciting race competition. We're known for that. We've got to keep doing that.
Also it means reaching new markets and venues. We talked in January about realignment. It also means not just moving events to different places, but how our events are distributed on television, the Internet and even internationally.
It also means a more diverse audience. We're an American sport. We have to embrace everyone in this country to be excited as we are about NASCAR. That includes the youth market and everybody that can help us keep growing.
While today is about change, we've actually had quite a bit of change at NASCAR in recent months, recent years. In June, we announced that Nextel was going to join us as our new series sponsor. Anybody who's met the Nextel team realizes they share the same enthusiasm about the future as we do. We're excited about 2004 with Nextel. Sonoco, as well, who will be our new fuel supplier beginning next year.
We're also fortunate to have some of the largest and best media companies in America investing in our sport, showcasing our product on television and the Internet in ways we could have never envisioned 10 years ago.
We also have more Fortune 500 companies who participate in NASCAR. We have to make sure that we're delivering on the promise and the value that is the NASCAR proposition for all of the companies that support NASCAR.
It is also a new era of excitement in our grass roots, weekly touring series. A couple years ago we made some revisions, we made some changes, and I'm pleased to tell you that the foundational parts of our industry are also thriving and doing well. So I'm prepared today and in the future to do my best to lead this company into the future.
I mentioned a moment ago, it will be talked about I'm sure a lot today, it's competition, how important that is, it's a foundational part of our business. I've been very lucky and fortunate to work with some of the greats in competition. My father, for one. My grandfather. Les Richter who I just saw in California, he's doing fine after a surgery. Jim Hunter, who is my original mentor and continues to be to this day. And Dick Beatty, and of course his contemporary Mike Helton. Mike and I have worked for over a decade side by side. I've had the privilege of watching some of the best in competition, and I've learned a lot from all those men.
So we've got a solid foundation in competition, this rich tradition for me to follow. But you know what, we're also going to move forward with some new ideas to get to a bright future. Part of that is going to be our R&D center. We've invested tens of millions of dollars in the short and long run, and I'm pleased to tell you that the results are terrific. We're getting safety advancements, we're getting cost containment, we're working on the car of tomorrow. It's all coming very quickly. We're very excited about that. I'm going to put all the resources I can to make sure our R&D center is in full gear.
Finally, I will tell you that for me, this is the perfect timing, because I truly have the best of all worlds. Number one, I've got Mike Helton and George Pyne, our day-to-day operators, who are doing a terrific job. Also have hundreds of people in our organization who are talented, dedicated, and I'm looking forward to giving them all the resources that they need to keep producing great results.
And also I have my father, who is just down the hallway, with all the experience I can draw on at any time. So it is a perfect time for me. Also the drivers and teams. We've got young drivers, we've got experienced veterans. Our teams are well-funded, well-organized, which is a direct result of why our competition is so terrific.
And finally, the NASCAR tracks. They, as well, have invested in their facilities, delivering on the fan promise. I'm looking forward to working with our NASCAR tracks and host events, working closely and in the future.
With that, I'm very grateful for the opportunity and look forward to the coming weeks and months.
JIM HUNTER: Thank you, Brian. We're now going to open it up to questions, question and answer period.
Q: Mr. France, could you remind us what age you were when your father handed you the reins of NASCAR. Talk just a bit about what was the most difficult part of the challenge those first few years.
BILL FRANCE: Well, I was about the same age as Brian. It was 1972. Right around 40 years old, either right on the bottom side of it or just over it.
From that standpoint, I had an extensive period prior to that operating. There was just two or three of us in those days, so I didn't have the people that we have around here now. Didn't have the Mike Heltons and George Pynes around. Sweet Jim Hunter was around in those days, but I'm not even really talking about him.
But, anyway, we had some challenges coming along. There was a few rough spots as we moved ahead. I kind of wanted to do things a new way, and he thought maybe the old way -- my father thought the old way was as good as any. But we agreed on about everything.
I think history shows that the sport's moved along pretty good. I think the same thing is going to happen on this go-around.
Q: Mr. France, I was just wondering if your roles that you have currently at ISC will remain the same or are they affected at all by today's announcement?
BILL FRANCE: No. It's going to remain pretty much the same. Some of you may not realize that my daughter Lisa is the president of ISC now. I'm still chairman of the board. My brother Jim is vice chairman also, but he's the CEO of ISC. That part's going to stay the same for the time being anyway.
Q: Bill, why step aside now? What's the timing on this?
BILL FRANCE: Is the question why is the timing now?
BILL FRANCE: Well, it had to happen sooner or later. I think the world thinks that - I say "the world," I'm talking about primarily our board - thinks that Brian was ready. I think as everyone knows now, I've been in and out of the hospital the last four, five years, so there's been a lot happening that I haven't actually been involved in.
NASCAR has moved along just as well or better, so why not do it now?