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CART Finds Buyer to Continue Series

New group says it plans to keep the financially troubled open-wheel circuit running.

September 11, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

The battle between the Indy Racing League and Championship Auto Racing Teams is over, but don't expect a single racing series any time soon.

On Wednesday, CART agreed to accept a purchase offer from Open Wheel Racing Series, which will take CART out of the public sector and privatize it under the direction of its principle owners, which include CART team owners Gerald Forsythe, Kevin Kalkhoven and Paul Gentilozzi.

CART accepted Open Wheel's offer of 56 cents a share after last month rejecting an offer of 50 cents a share. Trading closed Wednesday at 88 cents.

Open Wheel has until Sept. 18 to terminate the sale, which must be approved by CART shareholders. Forsythe is CART's largest shareholder with 3,377,400 shares, or 22.9% of the company, and is giving his shares to the new company rather than selling. That means about 11.4 million shares will cost Open Wheel Racing Series about $6.3 million.

Another key player for OWRS is MotoRock, LLC, which means fans can expect racing and concerts at the same venue, similar to the Elton John event scheduled for the Grand Prix Americas in Miami.

"I view tonight's developments in a very positive way, in that it clears up a lot of the confusion and indecisiveness about where CART is going and what its structure is going to be in the future," said Jim Michaelian, president of the Grand Prix of Long Beach Assn.

In a statement, OWRS said it will continue road, street and oval racing in its series. It primarily comprises road and street racing, unlike the all-oval IRL. IRL President Tony George has indicated he would be open to road course events, fueling speculation he might pick up the pieces -- including CART's signature event, the Grand Prix of Long Beach -- but Michaelian said there had been no talks with the IRL.

CART became a publicly held company in 1998. It had a $120-million war chest after the 2002 season, but was riddled with defections, notably by engine manufacturers Toyota and Honda, and key owners.

CART had to help bankroll many of the 19 teams in its starting grid and has had to provide at least partial promotion to nearly all American events, excluding Long Beach and Milwaukee. In recent months, CART announced its coffers were drained and lacked sufficient funds to get through the 2004 season.

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