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Judge Voids Sale of Miller Motorsports Park to Geely

A car speeds over the finish line at Miller Motorsports Park Miller Motorsports Park's sale is not yet over the finishing line.Picture: Miller Motorsports Park
 Neil Tipton
 Sunday, December 20, 2015

The sale of Miller Motorsports Park to a subsidiary of Chinese car manufacturer Geely has been halted after a Utah judge nullified the contract following a complaint by a rival bidder. Tooele County Third District Judge Robert Adkins ruled in favor of Center Point Management, a Wyoming-based development company which had lost out on buying the property during the bidding process several months ago, despite supposedly submitting a higher offer.

Geely subsidiary Mitime Investment and Development Group had planned to create the Utah Motorsports Campus in a $20 million takeover agreed with Toole County Commissioners, who took ownership of the circuit when the previous operators, the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, elected not to renew their lease on the land.

As well as vacting the sale, Judge Adkins also ruled that a temporary lease to Mitime while the main deal was finalised was also void, effectively passing control of the track back into the hands of the County Commissioners.

When the deal with Mitime was first announced, the Commissioners said that Mitime's additional programme of investment was taken into consideration alongside the initial bid price. The Chinese has promised substantial future investment in the local area of up to $1 billion over the next 25 years. An initial $5-8million upgrade of facilities was earmarked to bring the track up to the latest FIA and FIM standards, while longer-term plans included the development of a 3/8ths-mile oval track with a stadium, a Rally-X course, and potentially a drag strip.

Mitime had also stated it wanted to expand the scope of the facility, by developing a comprehensive motorsports education programme, specializing in management and technical motorsports elements, partnering with local educational establishments to deliver the programme. The deal would also have fitted well with Mitime's plans to build a network of circuits across China. Chinese staff were to be brought to Utah to learn about the proper running of these circuits, while facilities were also be created in Tooele to design and produce oval-track race cars and hill-climb trucks for export to China's growing motorsports market.

It is likely a new bidding process will have to be enacted following the court ruling. Center Point Management has already expressed a desire to continue with its purchase plans - suggesting a new bid of $28 million (up from their original $27 million) would be tabled when a new sale process is begun. They are themselves reportedly planning on some $140 million worth of upgrades that include homes and condos on the facility grounds.

It's not yet clear whether Geely will also continue to show interest following the setback, though Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne stated he hoped for a quick resolution in order to safeguard jobs and the 2016 calendar of events.

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