NASCAR agreed to a sweetened, $2 billion deal to buy a company that runs 13 major racetracks and take it private as part of NASCAR's effort to reverse years of decline in stock-car racing's popularity.
The tracks are owned by International Speedway Corp., which is controlled by the France family that also founded and controls NASCAR, the sport's sanctioning body.
NASCAR last November initially offered $42 a share for the roughly 25% of ISC held by the public. The new deal accepted by ISC and announced Wednesday is for $45 a share in cash.
ISC's tracks include Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.; Daytona International Speedway in Florida, Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama and ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix. ISC's revenue in its latest fiscal year totaled $675 million.
The merger's goal is to give NASCAR more flexibility in making major changes that it hopes will lead to a rebound in the sport's drooping attendance, television ratings and corporate sponsorships that finance its racing teams.
"In recent years, attendance at NASCAR events has faced stiff headwinds," ISC said in its latest annual report.
There is speculation the changes could include shifting locations in the 36-race schedule in NASCAR's premier Monster Energy Cup Series, altering the length of certain races or shortening the series' long schedule, which runs from February to November.
As a private company, NASCAR also would be able to make changes without worrying about the reaction of public investors and its stock price, because NASCAR no longer would have to publicly report attendance figures and financial statements for the tracks.
Jim France, NASCAR's chief executive and chairman of ISC, said in November that in "a highly competitive sports and entertainment landscape, a more unified strategic approach is important to our future growth."
The sport "requires structural changes" and the NASCAR-ISC merger is "a positive step forward in that direction," he said.
Even if the deal is completed later this year as expected, NASCAR still would have to negotiate some changes with another outside party, Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns eight racetracks that host major NASCAR races, including Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
"We are pleased with the progress that the negotiation and execution of the merger agreement between NASCAR and ISC represents," NASCAR said in a statement Wednesday. "With a strong vision for the future, the France family's commitment to NASCAR and the larger motorsports industry has never been greater."
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