Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Update: Schwantz ≠ fucked

Update: March 28, 2013

I read that Kevin Schwantz and COTA have kissed and made up. We'll never know exactly what went on, during the negotiations that led to this out-of-court settlement. But the net result is that Schwantz is some quasi-official 'event ambassador' and, presumably, has received some financial compensation.

The friendly tone of the press release belies the bitter nature of the original dispute, and I have to wonder whether Dorna didn't lean on COTA, to settle the case in advance of the upcoming Austin MotoGP event, so that Carmelo Ezpeleta could be spared a reprise of the moment, a year ago, when he was served court papers while eating breakfast.

As far as I'm concerned, COTA could've saved a lot of time and money by just reading the column I wrote about this dispute two years ago, and following my advice (highlighted below and expanded upon a year later, before the inaugural Austin race, here).

April 9, 2012 Dorna released a comment on the ongoing skirmishes between Kevin Schwantz and Circuit of the Americas -- the new Austin track where MotoGP would like to run a third U.S. Grand Prix. Just between the lines, they've fucked Kevin Schwantz off out of the deal.

It's impossible for me to know how central #34 was to the development of Austin's MotoGP plans. The implication of his pending lawsuit is that he was supposed to be a part of it -- maybe even that, but for him, such plans wouldn't even exist. But Dorna's made it pretty clear that, now that Schwantz has fallen out with COTA, it will side with the people who have a track. I suppose that makes short-term strategic sense; they can put on a race and let Texas courts disentangle the relationship between Schwantz, COTA, and Tavo Hellmund -- but if they side with Schwantz, they're fucked if COTA refuses to open the padlock on the track gate.

I bet you anything that Dorna's recent claim that its contract with Schwantz was nullified when he failed to meet a deadline to show a contract with the track is disingenuous. Just because Schwantz didn't have a contract doesn't mean they didn't have an agreement -- it is Texas after all, and as far as Kevin Schwantz was concerned, the deal closed when he shook hands on it. But once Dorna realized that Schwantz and COTA had fallen out, they probably breathed a sigh of relief when they realized that Schwantz' deal wasn't in writing and that in the absence of a contract between Schwantz (as promoter) and the track, Dorna's agreement with Schwantz would lapse.

Where does that leave Schwantz? In the short term, he's fucked. He'll have to prove any way he can, with witnesses and hopefully emails, texts, etc., that he really did have a deal with COTA. That will take years.

What does Dorna's handling of this say about them? I don't think it's too flattering. I mean, I totally get that they'd like to have a great new purpose-built venue in Austin. I'm not sure how solid either Laguna Seca or Indy's contracts are, but the North American market could easily support three or four MotoGP events, and in fact more events in the U.S. are one of the only hopes Dorna has to raise MotoGP awareness above the third tier -- to reach, say, that status of the X-Games. Texas has a great global 'brand' and it's actually easier to sell in MotoGP's main markets of Europe and Asia than either Laguna Seca or Indy. So they should want to race in Austin.

But if I was Dorna, I'd have told COTA, "Hey, we want Kevin to be involved, not an adversary." He's a charismatic guy, well known to local Austin media and beloved by specialist motorcycle media all over the world. Why on earth would you want him as an enemy? It would have been cheaper and strategically wiser to cut him a minority stake in the event.

1 comment:

  1. Sure Dorna could have twisted COTA's arm to keep Schwantz involved but they really are just a company looking to make money. They know what few people won't go to a US MotoGP because Kevin Schwantz isn't involved is insignificant.
    While I agree this stinks I'll still go to the race and Dorna is counting on people like me who just want to see a MotoGP race in the USA.