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Red Bull GM Frye lurches into search for investors

June 21, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com



Red Bull GM Frye lurches into search for investors
He doesn't rule out some form of support from Red Bull going forward past 2011

Within the next 30 to 45 days, Jay Frye hopes to be in talks with a potential investor to rescue the NASCAR organization now known as Red Bull Racing. And the team's vice president and general manager won't rule out some form of continued support from Red Bull itself.

The Austrian energy-drink manufacturer that has owned and bankrolled the two-car Sprint Cup operation since its inception in 2007 is pulling out at the end of this season, leaving the team's North Carolina management searching for ways to keep the organization and its estimated 200 employees afloat. That endeavor hinges on finding new owners and sponsors to make up for what will be leaving after the November season finale.

"We're just trying to do what we can to make sure the team continues, and to make sure the people who work here have a place to go. We think it's a very good team, and it deserves to continue."

--JAY FRYE

"The good news right now is, we have time to react," Frye said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. "It's still June. The way our sport works, we're halfway through the season, so that part is concerning, but over the last few days, weeks, whatever, we've had some opportunities to talk to some people, and there seems to be great enthusiasm about what we're doing and where we're heading. We're very optimistic we can put something together relatively quickly, in the next -- you hate to set a timeline, but 30 to 45 days, that type of thing, where we could have some good solution to this."

Frye later clarified that he hopes to be in talks with potential investors during that time frame, not necessarily have his team's future settled. It's been a roller coaster few days for those in the Red Bull shop, who Frye said caught wind of a potential Red Bull pullout a few weeks ago. The reasons why are still murky -- although the race team has spoken on the issue, no comment has yet come forward from the company's home office, and an e-mail request for comment was not immediately answered. The Red Bull NASCAR team has won one Sprint Cup race in its brief history.

"It really comes down to a business decision, how this all played out," Frye said. "Change in strategy. No specific reason or specific situation."

Focus now turns to the future, and the team's efforts to sustain itself beyond the 2011 season. As for its drivers, Kasey Kahne moves into Hendrick Motorsport's No. 5 car next season, and Brian Vickers is in the final year of his contract with the organization. Frye said first order of business has to be settling the ownership situation, then finding drivers and partnering them with the right sponsors.

"The first thing we have to do is get the ownership thing figured out with an investor or partner," he said. "... At that point once we get the ownership piece sorted and the partnership piece sorted, that's when we would go to the driver situation next and get them lined up, so we can go to the proper sponsor partner and get that connected with the right fit for their brand."

And Red Bull may not be completely out of the picture. Frye reiterated that his current parent company wants to see the team continue in some fashion, and is willing to assist in the search for new investors. He also didn't rule out the possibility of Red Bull continuing to be involved with the organization in some role going forward.

"We have to have sponsorship and funding to operate next year," he said. "With Red Bull's assistance, which they're obviously very keen on keeping the team going and keeping the team pointed in the right direction, they will be a big help in acquiring that. Also again, I'm not exactly sure what the possibilities are with them for next year, but there still are some possibilities that Red Bull could be involved in some way."

Perhaps as a stopgap solution, given how late it is in terms of finding sponsorship and funding for next season. "It is late. But it is doable," Frye said. "And if you have the right investor partner come in, they would be the conduit to help get it done. And also with Red Bull, too, Red Bull has a lot of partners throughout the world. Between the partner and Red Bull, if we can get this thing pointed in the right direction even if it's just for one year and then have 18 months to work on what's next for 2013, that would be one possible scenario on the financing part to operate for 2012."

A fixture in NASCAR for nearly two decades, Frye has good relationships with figures like Mark Martin and car owner Rick Hendrick, but for the time being dismisses any notion of them being involved in this salvage operation beyond the dispensation of advice. The parties he's currently speaking with, he said, are from outside of NASCAR. Any potential new investment would also likely include the team's current shop and equipment.

"We're just trying to do what we can to make sure the team continues, and to make sure the people who work here have a place to go," Frye said. "We think it's a very good team, and it deserves to continue."