Image: TRAVIS HAYTO.
THESE DAYS just about anything is up for sale – for the right price. Even Australia’s tier one motor racing series. Yes, Dear Reader, the Virgin Australia Supercars Series is up for grabs! And, it would seem, has long been.
Archer Capital, the private equity group based in Sydney, is the major stakeholder with 65% of the Supercars action. It has held that trump card since 2011.
I understand, the remaining chunk is firmly in the grip of Supercars’ 26 partners, under their binding Racing Entitlement Contracts. In turn, the REC group has hired an independent gun to oversee their interests. So there is no question they’ve been left in the dark.
Earlier this year Archer handed the plum role of due diligence to international investment bankers, UBS, to sound out interested parties. And tentative bids from the really serious high rollers are due on the Archer/UBS deal table Wednesday this week. But, like so many of these huge deals, this exercise could just as easily fall over than not. Watch this space!
UBS has narrowed its shortlist to a handful of prime prospects including News Corp Australia, Ticketek owner TEG, and Sports Entertainment Limited. Yep – the same SEL so familiar to my old sparring partner, and mate, Tony Cochrane. That same much respected former V8 Supercars Supremo who took the iconic Aussie blue and red marque to its zenith, before selling his share a few years back for an absolute motza. TC must be laughing all the way to the vault.
And don‘t be overly surprised if TC – as canny a businessman as there’s been in motorsport in this country – ends up once again with a slice of the pie. A sort of throwback to the Packer-Bond era. And Channel 9.
But TC has his hands more than full these day as chairman of the Gold Coast Suns (a current cellar-dweller on the AFL ladder) and other more lucrative international business interests. So maybe he’s just too canny to take on this caper again.
On the other hand, US motorsport megastar Roger Penske now joins the collective brilliance of the minds of Prodrive’s Rusty French, Triple Eight’s guru Roland Dane, Ryan Walkinshaw, Garry Rogers and a host of others in the Pit Lanes across the country. So, there’s every chance Supercars could end up in the firm grasp of the team owners. Probably where it belongs!
According to Supercars CEO James Warburton it’s business as usual. And the future is in the hands of the shareholders. It certainly is.
Oh to be a listening device in the B-doubles and garages in country Victoria this weekend for the resumption of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship – the Winton Super Sprint.