News & Media

Six Pack: Give me Liberty or give me debt

August 09, 2011, Joe Menzer,

RPM investor Murstein remembers foggy but expensive escape from Pocono

Andrew Murstein, founder and president of Medallion Financial Corp. which owns a piece of Richard Petty Motorsports, answers this week's six questions.

1. Don't you have an interesting story about your first visit to Pocono Raceway?

"I told the guy, 'Well, I don't have the $300. But I've got these Liberty tickets.' He looks at me and breaks out laughing and says, 'This is the greatest! I love the Liberty!'"


Murstein: The quick story is that when we first started looking at this sport back about five years ago, we were having conversations with the Yates family. Robert Yates said he wanted to fly me out to the track at Pocono and talk to me about investing in his team. So he sent the helicopter for me ... and let's just say the helicopter was a little chintzy, not quite what I would expect. I don't know if he was trying to save a couple bucks and he didn't send me his best or what.

2. So you were nervous about flying in it?

Murstein: Well, coming back from the race it was really foggy. And the pilot says, 'I can't see anything. What should I do?' I was thinking, No. 1, that's a bad sign if the pilot is asking me what to do. So I said, 'I don't know. What do you think we should do?' He said, 'I think we should lay it down on the beach (near Staten Island).' ... We ended up coming down right on top of these three Italian guys who were fishing. They were tough. They weren't moving. We're coming down; they're still fishing. Finally, they were smart enough to move and we landed right next to their fishing tackle.

3. What happened after that?

Murstein: I told one of the guys that I thought we were going to be stuck there for a couple of hours. And he offered to give me a ride back to New York City. I thought it was so nice of the guy. He said no problem, that he was a big race fan. But as soon as I got in his van -- black with tinted windows -- he also said, 'That'll be $300.'

4. So you paid the man?

Murstein: Well, we get to the city and I look in my wallet -- and the only thing I've got in my wallet are six tickets to the New York Liberty, the women's professional basketball team in New York. In 13 years, no one has asked me for my tickets to the Liberty games. I told the guy, 'Well, I don't have the $300. But I've got these Liberty tickets.' He looks at me and breaks out laughing and says, 'This is the greatest! I love the Liberty!'

5. What year did all this take place?

Murstein: That was in 2006. That was near the top of the business world for marketing in NASCAR, and that was one of the reasons we didn't pull the trigger at the time. I thought things were almost too good. The business was doing great and the attendance was peaking. So we held back and in retrospect, we were lucky that we did. We did not look at anything else in NASCAR until 2010, when we started conversations with George Gillett about possibly buying the Montreal Canadiens. Through those conversations that led us to the Richard Petty situation, which has been terrific for us since day one.

6. Tell us a little more about how the relationship with Richard Petty and Richard Petty Motorsports developed -- and how you feel the cars driven by A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose have performed?

Murstein: It's been terrific. I look at sports investments like any other investments. It's really looking at trends to see what direction companies are going, how their margins and sales are going; and in NASCAR, it's how their performance has been going. And when I look at A.J.'s numbers over the last five years, it's been like a hockey stick projection where things have gotten better and better and better. So he's pointing in the right direction, and usually that continues. I think he'll win a race soon, maybe this year or maybe next year.

Marcos has been terrific also. ... When we bought the team, A.J. and Marcos thanked us profusely. I thought that showed how great they are not only as athletes, but as people. They understood the connection between business and performance in the sport better than anybody. They thanked us for saving the team and I think it put their minds at ease, which has helped them perform better.