Michael Andretti denies IndyCar team in financial trouble
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Michael Andretti called allegations that his IndyCar team is on the verge of insolvency unfounded.
The comments came Wednesday in a statement issued by the IndyCar team owner - one day after details from a lawsuit were made public.
Two minority owners for Andretti Sports Marketing claim Andretti, who owns 60 percent of that company, attempted to cover debts incurred by his race team, Andretti Autosport, by borrowing money from other sources and using some revenue from ASM.
John Lopes and A. Starke Taylor, who each own 20 percent of ASM, allege Andretti Autosport has less than $2 million in unencumbered assets and at least $7 million in debt - plus additional liabilities that may exceed $10 million. They are seeking damages and the reinstatement of John Lopes as ASM president and manager.
Lopes was recently relieved of his duties by Andretti, who said he was ''unhappy with the day-to-day operations.'' Taylor serves as ASM's chief marketing officer and senior vice president.
But Andretti contends that Lopes and Taylor couldn't know the financial details of the team he has sole ownership over because they don't have access to team books.
''This lawsuit is a disingenuous and self-serving attempt to benefit John Lopes and Starke Taylor at the expense of Andretti Autosport and its 120 employees,'' Andretti said. ''The allegations by Lopes and Taylor will not be supported by the evidence and we will aggressively respond with the truth.''
Lopes and Taylor contend that a series of sponsorship defaults in 2013 and 2014 created financial pressure on Andretti Autosport. The suit claims that when a key sponsor then pulled out for the 2014 season, the team lost millions.
The plaintiffs, according to the filing, believe Andretti's team grossed $25 million but sustained a loss of at least $10 million loss in 2014 -- and that the team is projected to finish with the same numbers this year.
Andretti and his son, Marco, spent Wednesday at a daylong tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The elder Andretti did not take questions about the suit.
But Andretti's team has long been considered one of IndyCar's power brokers. It has usually fielded teams of three or four cars, and Andretti drivers have he pointed out in his statement that the future remains bright for one of the series' power teams since returning to the IndyCar circuit in 2003 as Andretti Green Racing.
AGR won two Indianapolis 500s - with the late Dan Wheldon in 2005 and Dario Franchitti in 2007 - and three IndyCar championships (2004, 2005 and 2007) with three different drivers.
Since becoming sole owner of the renamed team, Andretti has added the 2012 series title with Ryan Hunter-Reay and the 2014 Indy title, also with Hunter-Reay.
''My family has strived to earn an exemplary reputation in all facets of our personal and professional lives,'' Andretti said. ''We will not allow this reckless attempt at grabbing leverage to impact our family name.''"
Lopes served as Andretti Green's senior vice president of marketing from 2005-09 and then as chief marketing officer and senior vice president of AGR from 2009 until 2012 when he took the position as ASM to help operate and promote motorsports events.
The formal allegations include accusations that Andretti borrowed or obtained roughly $6 million to $8 million from various sources to cover losses, and that when Andretti transferred roughly $196,000 into ASM accounts, Andretti blocked Lopes and Taylor from accessing the money.