Judge Overturns Sale of Miller Motorsports Park

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole

A Utah judge has blocked the sale of Miller Motorsports Park to a Chinese investment firm because county commissioners may have illegally lowered the price to below fair-market value, KSL reported Thursday.

In a filing, Judge Robert Atkins said Tooele county officials tasked with selling the shuttered racetrack ignored higher bids to sell the racetrack for $20 million to Geely-backed Mitime Investment and Development Group. According to the report, county tax officials estimated the value of the track at $28.1 million.

A competing bidder, Center Point Management, said it offered $22.5 million for the park. The Wyoming-based company filed a lawsuit to stop the sale because they said county officials ignored their bid based on unverified promises by the Chinese group.

According to KSL, the county commissioned an appraisal after the lawsuit was filed by Center Point, which valued the track at $9 million. The judge noted that the appraisal wasn’t believable considering the timing and pending lawsuit.

Tooele County Commissioners said they were disappointed, but stopped short of saying they would appeal the decision.

“We are disappointed by the judge’s findings,” county Commissioner Shawn Milne said in a statement. “Tooele County is committed to bringing about the successful sale of the Miller Motorsports Park property. It is important to the citizens of the county that it remain a viable racetrack, and that the jobs and businesses associated with the facility, as well the revenue realized by the county and area businesses, remain intact. In light of the court’s decision, the county is considering several options to resolve this situation in both the short and long-term.”

The judge wrote that the sale was “an inappropriate attempt to circumvent the law and avoid the prospect of having to address a higher purchase offer from another willing purchaser.”

The order by the judge is the latest measure in an increasingly ugly fight between the Chinese investment group, competing bidders and county officials.

After Larry Miller, who owned one of the largest automobile dealership groups in the U.S. and the Utah Jazz, died in 2009, the future of the track bearing his name became increasingly uncertain. Miller built and maintained the world-class track, often at great personal expense. The track struggled to turn a profit, and in recent years, has struggled to attract big-name events to keep it afloat.

In May, when the Miller family walked away from the track — exercising an escape in its 99-year lease with the county — commissioners were left to sell the track. In August, the group announced the sale to Mitime, which is a subsidiary of Chinese automaker Geely, who also owns Volvo.

[h/t to John for the tip!]

Aaron Cole
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  • Signal11 Signal11 on Dec 19, 2015

    There's a pattern to certain bylines of late of there being missing or just plain wrong information. Reading the TTAC article without reading the referenced article, one could easily believe (as more than one poster seems to have) that there is some sort of Chinese involved malfeasance at work here. OTOH, reading the actual article written by a real journalist reveals that the vague "unverified promises" that were quoted in the TTAC article were about investing in the property as a racetrack, expanding and upgrading facilities as well as bringing in more jobs. Who is the Andrew Cartwright referenced in the article? Other than stirring up xenophobic sentiments from the locals such as, "Personally, it's disgusting to me that you're selling out. Not only to a foreign country, but to a communist country." Who is this guy? A property developer. One who is making no assurances or promises that the facility will remain a racetrack after his group purchases it. It literally took less than five minutes of googling to dig a little under the surface to see what the county official's statements meant.

    • Wmba Wmba on Dec 19, 2015

      I agree with you. I read this article, and could not make any rational sense of it. I read Cole's earlier article back from the summer and it was okay, no more. I clicked on the external link above to the latest newspaper article of Dec 17,and read it. Now it all makes sense. Point is, why was the rewrite published here such a mess? This is about the fifteenth time I've commented on Coles' articles. Basically, they're rubbish. No other way to put it, no way to sugar-coat the reality. Also, he obviously cares not one whit about criticism - constructive or otherwise, thinks he's funny or something. Used to spend a lot of time on the site, but now I generally just skim it. If I didn't already read about something three or four days before just in surfing the web, then I'll have a read of the article, which often amounts to nothing more than gibberish if it has a Coles byline, and go off on the web to read about the subject by someone who can actually write logically, to understand what's really going on - if I care enough about the topic. The comments also rarely match the topic, with the same commenters repeating on every single blessed article, basically having a neighborhood chat on whatever strikes their fancy. Zero interest to me to read about student loans on the new Nissan car post, for example. Who cares? Why are there so few new commenters these days? The Baruths are usually ranting on about what they regard as others' bad habits, or lack of someone or something being as wonderful as they are. I once found this interesting, perhaps for the first few dozen times. Now it's just more of the same, a repeat of a tired-out formula. Trucks. Couldn't care less about these beam-axle monstrosities which are state of the art in precisely nothing. The site's title says cars, not trucks. So what if trucks sell 40% of the market? Make a site for those who truly care about them to argue incessantly about payloads and towing specs and arcana. The real technical content of the site is next to zero, and I read better comments on C/D Backfires. I'm sure traffic numbers drive a website's viability. I hope all is well in this regard, because originally this site was a trailblazer and exciting, so I retain a certain loyalty to it. I know things change, been around seven decades to observe that, but this place is really getting super stale. I know I pay nothing to read TTAC, so any complaint can objectively be discarded as unimportant. That's fine, as they used to say: if you don't like the program then change the channel. For the most part I already have. The only reason I hang about at all is nostalgia I guess. But good lord, surely something needs to change to make it a bit more interesting, to attract new commenters and to make things a bit more lively so discussion doesn't drag down to idiotic politics, pronouncements from on high from people without the slightest clue usually living in the minimum wage paradise down under, and people who still hold a grudge about the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies and who cannot even get their facts straight, so blinded are they by some perceived outrage they've manufactured in their own heads. And so on. A reset. That's what's needed.

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Dec 19, 2015

    Mitime is a Chinese investment group in the same manner that Ford Motor Land Development Corporation is a Dearborn based real estate company.

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.