(by John Oreovicz espn.go.com 1-19-10)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indy Racing League founder Tony George has resigned, effective immediately, from his board of director responsibilities at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hulman & Company, the Indiana-based family business founded in 1850.
George, 50, had served as President and CEO of Hulman & Co. and its affiliates, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. and the IRL, from 1989 until he was effectively forced out in June 2009. Since then, he remained a board member of Hulman & Co. and IMS, though he resigned his position last year from management of the IRL.
"As members of his family, we are sorry to see Tony leave," Hulman & Co. chairman Mari Hulman George, Tony's mother, said in a statement. "We are grateful for his service to our company as a board member and of course for formerly serving as CEO and president of our companies. I speak for our whole family in wishing him well. All of us had hoped that Tony would continue to serve on the board, and we made that clear to him. We are disappointed with his decision to step down despite our wishes."
Tony George polarized the racing community with his decision to use the Indianapolis 500 as the centerpiece of the IRL, which he formed in 1994 as an alternative to the CART IndyCar World Series. When the IRL began staging races in 1996, it instigated a 13-year battle with CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) and later the Champ Car World Series for control of the sport generically known as Indy car racing. In that time span, Indy car racing lost fans, sponsors, manufacturers, teams and drivers, with many of those constituents transferring their allegiance to NASCAR.
The open-wheel war finally ended in early 2008 when the IRL absorbed the assets of Champ Car, but only after George spent hundreds of millions of dollars of the Hulman family fortune on starting and sustaining the IRL. In June 2009, the Hulman & Co. board, which includes Mari Hulman George, as well as Tony George's sisters Nancy, Josie and Kathi plus attorney Jack Snyder, voted to remove Tony from his role as chairman.
"Our company is healthy and is weathering the economic recession well," noted Mrs. Hulman-George. "Jeff Belskus, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Curt Brighton, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, are both doing excellent jobs in guiding our companies through this difficult time. Many hard decisions have been made, and now our companies are well positioned for the future."
Tony George is expected to remain involved in the Indy car arena as the owner of Vision Racing, which has fielded cars in the IndyCar Series since 2005 for his stepson, Ed Carpenter.
George was not immediately available for comment.