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Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Roush-Red Sox partnership not a done deal yet

By Marty Smith
ESPN.com

While addressing the media last week in Charlotte, NASCAR team owner Jack Roush spoke as if the pending sale of a portion of his racing organization to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, and Henry's Fenway Sports Group, was effectively complete.

It isn't.

In fact, it could be a while. It's one of the most elaborate transactions Roush Racing president Geoff Smith has ever seen.

"The deal is not done," Smith told ESPN.com Tuesday. "It's a really complex transaction with more separate contracts than anything I've ever seen."

More than 50, in fact, Smith said.

"There are lawyers engaged around the clock, basically, trying to work through all the details of all these documents," Smith said. "So that's why nobody wants to talk exactly, because the deal's not done."

Both parties remain committed, though, Smith said.

"We both want it to be done and want to be in business together, and are hoping we can agree on everything necessary to close in a short period of time," Smith said.

He doesn't have a timetable.

"We've been saying that for two full months, maybe three full months now," he said. "That's how long it's been going on."

Smith is uncertain how many individuals are working on the project of the Fenway Sports Group side, but said no less than seven Roush Racing employees, including a pair of lead lawyers and three senior financial executives, are working on Roush's behalf full time. Then there are multiple folks weighing in on a part-time basis, such as Smith.

Smith also said the speculated dollar figure involved in the sale -- $50 million -- is inaccurate. And he isn't giving any hints as to what it is, either.

"No, they are not accurate," Smith said. "I never comment one way or another about any numbers, any money, but I've read a couple different numbers and I'm like, 'Well, that's people hypothesizing.'

"There are people making assumptions about what our revenue is and what our profitability is, and they're trying to figure out what [team owner] Richard Childress sold his interest [to a group of investors] for, or what someone else is looking for, then coming up with a number.

"A well-run race team is a valuable little piece of business if it's run correctly, and it can also be a terrible business if it isn't. So people can guess all they want, but they won't get any number from me."

Asked for comment on the status of the deal Monday, Fenway Sports Group chose instead to respond via e-mail statement from FSG president Mike Dee:

"As we have previously stated, Fenway Sports Group is in discussions with Roush Racing. While we continue to explore this opportunity, there is nothing new to report at this time."

So what do both sides stand to gain out of the partnership? Business-to-business relationships, partly.

For Roush Racing, before the ink so much as congeals on John Henry's John Hancock, Roush will have unlocked doors for his Nextel Cup program that have largely been sealed to NASCAR team owners, namely those blocking sponsorship opportunities and fans in the Northeast.

"The Boston Red Sox have 14 million dedicated fans to their brand alone across the country, and most of it in New England," Smith said. "Any penetration into either that fan base, or a baseball fan base in general, that aren't already NASCAR fans, would be a really huge boost to our brand.

"The NASCAR fan base is scattered all over, and there is a particular fan base for each of our drivers and our team. When you're into the licensing transactions and how many of those occur, you realize that a small percentage of 14 million people could have a significant impact for some of our drivers or sponsors just in the licensing arena alone.

"Having additional fans that you can say are your fans will help us in our search for and retention of sponsors. So that's a really big plus."

And that's not all. Location, location, location.

"The second big plus is their location, the New England area," Smith continued. "It's the first or second largest demographic base in the country. It has more corporate headquarters than anyone, and is also one of the weaker areas in terms of our demographic.

"So being able to have a better connection to New England, we think will increase our access to some of those corporate prospects. And it will allow our sponsors, we think, to have a better chance of successful activation of their support marketing programs.

"If more of New England is receptive, you'll see more promotions lasting for longer time in that marketplace. We think there's some really great personalities there, and good business practices, and a great brand that will help us."

Makes sense. So what about the Fenway side?

"They likewise see that the sponsor-base in NASCAR is broad and might give them some access for marketing activity," Smith said. "They do marketing activity for golf, for basketball, for colleges, for private clients and so forth, there's extra access to sponsorship.

"They're also competitors. They're like us. They enjoy big-time competition. Of course, it has to make business sense, which it does. And so that makes it pretty cool. It makes business sense, you can make a profit, enjoy competition and can make my business better. So let's go."

Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.