CUP: Petty Completes RPM Takeover

Richard Petty has completed his takeover of Richard Petty Motorsports as he and new partners Medallion Financial Group and DGB Investments have purchased the assets of the race team from George Gillett, according to an RPM news release.

Petty, a member of the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and winner of seven Cup titles and 200 races, will serve as chairman and will be actively involved in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization, which will field Fords for drivers AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose next year.

The team was in jeopardy of folding as Gillett, the majority shareholder in the team, had to restructure a $90 million loan last April. Having sold the NHL Montreal Canadiens in 2009, Gillett saw the Liverpool soccer team he co-owned sold over his objection in October for a price he felt undervalued the team.

The week after the sale, RPM employees were told their jobs couldn’t be guaranteed through the end of the season for what was then a four-car operation.

By that time, Petty, who owned only a small portion of the team, began working to find investors to purchase the racing assets but not be saddled with the debt. Petty put together the group of Murstein's Medallion – a publicly traded investment company – and DGB Investments, which is led by VeriFone Systems CEO Douglas Bergeron.

“George and [son] Foster Gillett deserve a great deal of credit for running a successful race team,” said Petty, whose Petty Enterprises merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports after the 2008 season. “They made a significant investment into the business and helped get back into victory lane.

“Going forward, we have put together an all-star ownership team consisting of myself, Medallion, and VeriFone CEO Doug Bergeron. … Our partnership with Andy Murstein and Doug Bergeron will help take us to a whole new level and I could not be more excited about our future.”

As part of the purchase of racing assets, the debt was paid at "a big discount off of that" $90 million, said Medallion Financial Group President Andrew Murstein.

Murstein had looked into purchasing Evernham Motorsports, Robert Yates Racing and Petty Enterprises in the past – and those three companies eventually became Richard Petty Motorsports through mergers and buyouts the last three years.

"It was a perfect storm from our perspective," Murstein said in a phone interview Monday. "When we looked at all three of the properties three years ago, the combined purchase price was well north of $100 million. The new price was well south of $100 million."

Bergeron, in a phone interview Monday, said Murstein approached him about the deal. Murstein, whose company was built on owning licenses to operate taxis in New York City and other metropolitan areas, knew Bergeron through VeriFone’s purchase of a taxi advertising company that Medallion originally owned and then sold to Clear Channel Communications.

Bergeron and Murstein said their investment companies together own more than 50 percent of Richard Petty Motorsports, and Medallion owns the most of any of the shareholders.

“Andy and I together own the majority of the team, and the three of us are not far off as far as percentage of ownership,” Bergeron said.

The company will have a board of directors that will include Bergeron, Murstein and Petty and they will hire a CEO to run the business. Murstein said the board will include six or seven people, with Petty likely being able to appoint another board member and Murstein appointing two or three more.

“Richard is the chairman of the business – he certainly is the front man,” Bergeron said. “We’re going to instill some proper business discipline here as well, both in terms of managing costs, growing the business and securing the best and most lucrative sponsorships.

“It is my hope that within a year or two, we can get back to four cars.”

Murstein had looked into purchasing a NASCAR team for several years and had been courted by Petty in 2008 before its purchase by Boston Ventures in 2008, which was then followed by a merger with Gillett Evernham after the season.

“We could not be happier to be able to acquire these assets together,” Murstein said in the news release. “Richard is one of the greatest names, not only in NASCAR, but in all sports. His name and image are a world recognized brand with unlimited potential to grow and expand in racing.

“Ample working capital has been invested in the company to insure this great team and legend will not only continue to perform, but will thrive and be back in the winner’s circle.”

DGB Investments is an investment vehicle of Bergeron, who bought VeriFone Systems from Hewlett-Packard in a transaction valued at $50 million in 2001. The company is now worth more than $3 billion.

“With Richard Petty’s unmatched name and reputation in the motorsports industry, I know this investment is well-timed to succeed,” Bergeron said. “We are going to help put Richard Petty Motorsports back in victory lane.”

RPM finished the season with all four teams and had a strong performance in the season finale with Aric Almirola finishing fourth and Allmendinger fifth at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Allmendinger will return to the team’s No. 43 car next season and team with Ambrose, who will drive the No. 9.

Elliott Sadler, who drove the team's No. 19 car, was released following the season and will drive for Kevin Harvick Inc. in the Nationwide and Truck series next year. Kasey Kahne, who drove the No. 9 car for seven years for the organization, left in October to join Red Bull Racing, where he will race in 2011 before moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

Paul Menard, who joined RPM after its merger with Yates Racing for 2010, will drive for Richard Childress Racing next year. Sadler’s No. 19 and Menard’s No. 98 were dissolved after the 2010 season.

Robbie Loomis will retain his role as vice president of race operations while Sammy Johns will continue to be the team’s director of operations. Mike Shiplett, who was Allmendinger’s crew chief, will remain in that role and Todd Parrott, crew chief for Sadler last year, will be the crew chief for Ambrose.

The purchase ends a long and somewhat chaotic venture into motorsports for Gillett, who bought majority interest into Evernham Motorsports midway through the 2007 season.

At the start of the 2008 season, Gillett agreed to buy Robby Gordon Motorsports for $23.5 million that included an additional four-year, $12 million base salary for Gordon as the driver but the deal fell through. Following the 2008 season, the team merged with Petty Enterprises to form Richard Petty Motorsports. Then without a manufacturer heading into 2010, it merged with Yates Racing to assume that team’s relationship with Ford.

Ray Evernham and Boston Ventures, which each owned a minority interest in RPM, are not part of the current deal. • Sam Hornish Jr. could end up in Nationwide Series for Penske Racing