James Warburton will step down from his role as Supercars CEO at the end of the current season.
The former Network Ten boss took over the running of the category in May 2013 when the sport was in difficult circumstances.
Although Warburton has given no reason for his decision to step down, Speedcafe.com understands there was a disagreement over the financial terms of a renewed contract he was seeking.
According to an informed source, he was looking for a new three-year deal with increased compensation.
Warburton’s demand for a pay increase to continue as chief executive officer from 2018-20 was apparently rejected.
Speedcafe.com has been told that one key director strenuously opposed upping Warburton’s remuneration package, allegedly declaring that the former TV executive wasn’t worth more money.
It is believed the dispute over the financial terms of his renewal came to a head during the Bathurst 1000, where most team owners expressed a strong desire for him to stay on.
While it is understood Warburton wanted to continue as CEO for another three years, talks last week failed to reach an agreement on improved pay and he reluctantly decided to quit at the end of this year.
He will leave the sport having brokered a $241 million dollar six-year television deal with Fox Sports and Network Ten, which is among his list of achievements.
Just last week he achieved a long term goal for the category by securing a night race for next season at Sydney Motorsport Park.
However, an aim to infiltrate the Asian market remains unachieved with moves continuing in the region after a failed attempt in Malaysia.
Warburton has confirmed that his departure comes with a ‘heavy heart’ via a statement sent to Speedcafe.com.
He will remain in charge for the remaining three events of the season, including this weekend’s Vodafone Gold Coast 600, the ITM Auckland Super Sprint and the Coates Hire Newcastle 500.
“With a heavy heart, I advise the 2017 season (and year) will be my last as CEO of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship,” read the statement.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to work with such inspiring people within the Supercars family and to lead a sport of which I have been a fan since the age of five.
“I am truly in awe of the passion and commitment across the entire industry and the dedication to entertain our fans and am blessed to have made a host of lifelong friends from the experience.
“On day one, 14th May 2013, I penned an open letter which focused on my clear priorities for the business:
“1.Return financial performance of the business to historical levels and increase distributions to the teams as quickly as possible
“2. Return entrepreneurial thinking and deal-making to the business and forge a growth strategy for our future
“3. Return united purpose and clarity to all stakeholders with common goals.
“It is fair to say the sport is in great health, we have achieved so much with unity and, more importantly, the path is set to raise the sport to even greater heights.
“Every single metric from EBIT, team distributions, crowd attendance to media numbers are well up and the fans continue to vote with their feet.
“Supercars is by no means a one man show and the sport remains in the very best of hands. There are far too many highlights to mention and people to thank to list them individually.
“The experience, depth, expertise and skill of the current leadership group in managing Australia’s third largest sport, the biggest major events in most states each year, the best touring car Championship in the world and an incredible business is simply world class.
“I am proud to have led a management team which has executed a very strong growth strategy, with the administration finalising a record number of agreements for the sport in the past four and a half years.
“Equally, the staff at Supercars are some of the most committed and dedicated people I have ever worked with. We are very lucky to have them and I know they will continue to punch above their weight and create the perfect canvass for the teams and drivers to entertain our fans.
“I thank the shareholders for letting the management team execute and deliver on the plan. I thank Board Chairman and Archer founder Peter Wiggs and his team for their support, trust and counsel and I thank the team owners for their belief and unity.
“As I have said many times, I would not and could not do the role without the absolute support of the teams.
“For now, we have a season to finish and finish well. I look forward to an epic Championship battle and three big events to finish strong at the Gold Coast, New Zealand and Newcastle.
“In 2018, your number 1 fan will be sitting opposite pit lane, finally in shorts and a t-shirt with his family, cold beer in the hand cheering you all.”
The identity of his successor remains unknown at this stage.