CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Zak Brown has turned down an offer to join the IndyCar Series, choosing instead to remain with the motorsports marketing company he founded.
Brown told The Associated Press on Tuesday he informed Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles of his decision not to take a job with IndyCar. He’ll instead relocate in July to England to continue the growth of his Zionsville, Ind.-based agency, Just Marketing International.
“I’m a huge fan of IndyCar, it’s a great product and it certainly would have been a great opportunity and challenge,” Brown said. “I have no doubt Mark Miles and the team he forms will lead the series down a path of success — and we at JMI will continue to do our part to support IndyCar.
“I’m committed to JMI, excited about our future and therefore unable to pursue any other opportunities. Mark is fully aware of my passion for IndyCar and my desire to contribute to the series’ success in any way I can, but at this time that cannot be in the CEO role.”
Brown had been contemplating leaving Indiana for London when discussions began earlier this year with Miles about a potential role for Brown in IndyCar. Miles, hired late last year as head of IndyCar’s parent company, had said Brown had made it clear “his only interest would be if we put the pieces together and he was the head of racing.”
The courtship dragged on for months, and on Monday the series announced longtime motorsports veteran Derrick Walker had been hired as head of competition reporting directly to Miles.
Miles said he’s moving forward with a plan to restructure the management flow of both IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and has chosen a model where Walker and a president of IndyCar and IMS commercial operations report directly to Miles.
That model makes Miles the de facto CEO of IndyCar.
“Obviously if those two heads are reporting to me, I expect to be hands on, focused on this and responsible for our racing,” Miles said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I don’t expect to take the title of CEO of IndyCar. But if you ask who is responsible for IndyCar and IMS, the answer is me.”
Brown said Walker’s hiring had nothing to do with his decision, nor did the way Miles has decided to structure the organization.
“I think Mark’s first task at hand is getting the organizational structure correct and the right people in the right roles, and I think he’s well on his way with getting good people in place,” Brown said. “Certainly Derrick Walker is a highly experienced individual that can contribute to IndyCar’s growth.”
Miles said he’s got at least three candidates he’s had “some level of discussion with” for his head of the commercial division, and will continue looking for potential hires.
“This isn’t starting over, we’ve always been working on a track where Zak was a leading contender but not the only candidate,” Miles said.
When the restructuring is complete, IndyCar and IMS will have a slightly different look. Miles will be the boss, with several direct reports that include Walker, the head of the commercial division, Robby Green, who will move back to his role as head of IMS Productions, and Jeff Belskus, who will be moved from interim CEO of IndyCar and CEO of IMS into a restructured role as president of Hulman & Co.
Belskus’ new responsibilities would fall under “a shared services” role as head of finances, human resources and information technology, as well as heading up Clabber Girl and Hulman & Co. real estate.
The restructuring of Belksus’ position would open a hole for a new track president at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a position that will also report to Miles.
The timing of the courtship by IndyCar was complicated by the revelation in late March that Spire Capital Partners was trying to sell its 60 per cent ownership stake in JMI. Spire purchased its share in 2008, and Brown still owns 20 per cent along with advertising agency WPP.
Spire’s desire to sell clouded JMI’s future at the same time Brown was trying to make a decision about what he wanted to do with his career. Although Spire has made no announcement about its plans for JMI, Brown seemed confident Tuesday his place is leading JMI into the future.
“I have invested my entire business life into JMI, I’ve got great partners in Spire Capital and WPP, and the best group of employees,” Brown said. “Collectively we’ve all turned JMI into market leaders. Motorsports and our business has never been stronger and we have some very exciting opportunities ahead of us, which gets me very excited about our future and I have a strong desire to continue to lead JMI as I’ve done for the past 17 years.”