Let’s take a look at a few facts before I wander, as I often do, outside of the box.
Hendrick Motorsports is the General Motors factory team in NASCAR. No one can really, with a straight face, deny it.
Rick Hendrick really has no one to take over this level of operation in the future that would have his best interests at heart.
Jeff Gordon is retiring, but has stated that he doesn’t really want to get out of motorsports but is very vague in his statement regarding the future. People like Jeff Gordon do not decide to retire and not know what they’re going to do next. The simple, everyman image that he casts is a ruse. He shrewd and he knows.
My first inclination for Gordon’s possible future was that of show business, sometimes called sports-casting, but let’s face it, it is show business and Gordon is good at it. He seemed to revel in it at times, particularly while he was a ‘A’ list personality in New York City.
I recently stated to my friend and insider expert, Bill Marlowe, that I felt given Gordon’s accelerated role in commentating for the Xfinity series, he would go for showbiz.
It would seem natural, but Marlowe immediately adjusted my thinking that it would be a waste and not in the ultimate plan.
If you don’t know Bill Marlowe, you should. He’s raced Formula Atlantics, he’s engineered for Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Ricky Rudd, Bill Elliott and Trevor Bayne. He knows his way around the NASCAR paddock.
Marlowe then proceeded to line item by line item let me know the err of my thinking and in the process changed my mind.
Jeff Gordon will become a significant player in the Hendrick Motorsports operation.
Consultant? No. Ray Evernham is a consultant. Jeff Gordon will become a decision maker for the Chevrolet juggernaut.
How does this scenario line up without some evidence? There are plenty of breadcrumbs lying about that point to this scenario becoming a reality.
Jeff Gordon is a name with far more business acumen than a junior varsity level businessman.
He has made moves that suggest he is setting up Command Central, Charlotte. He has his New York property up for sale as well as a ranch in Utah.
Why sell these prime properties that would serve as a multi-millionaire get-away unless he had no time to use them?
In fact, the hammers and nails are flying as this goes to press on a palatial home in Charlotte. His wife, no doubt, is overseeing the European stones and artifacts being placed just so.
Think of it as a Belgian castle being planted in good old North Carolina.
He has equity in the #48 team, how much I do not know. I also don’t know if he has more equity than just the team, my suspicion is that he does.
Jeff Gordon is a household name in the United States. Ask anyone in any-town USA and they will recognize the name and General Motors is acutely aware of this.
The verdict for me, after heavy consultation with Marlowe, is that Jeff Gordon is being groomed for an executive role within the Hendrick organization. Chances are that process has been going on for quite some time.
Gordon would move into a vice-presidential role and over time, assuming he performs, will move up the ladder into what could become what we Formula One people call “Team Principle”. From there, CEO. He’s capable and has been taught well by both GM and Hendrick.
Deals such as this don’t differ dramatically from what you would see in the financial or manufacturing world who are searching for an eventual leader.
He would increase his equity stake over time as part of the package and as time goes on collect on the equity shares that have been set aside for him to acquire in the form of an earn out, thus ensuring he performs to the highest standards, which I’m sure he will.
Once the complete ‘higher education’ process is complete, he would then be offered a much greater equity stake, probably in the form of a split.
Some stock at the deal close, and the rest restricted to be taken either on specific dates or perhaps performance benchmarks. It could also be in the form of stock options, to be purchased at a preferred rate.
It makes sense. He’s been with Rick Hendrick forever, he has the knowledge and the ability, he is a household name and ultimately brings a ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ aura to General Motors.
Bill Marlowe convinced me.
Don’t you love the Machiavellian universe of auto racing? I do.