Support emerges for ‘formidable’ Skaife/TLA Supercars buyout bid

Mark Skaife and Craig Kelly at Bathurst in 2004. Picture: AN1images.com

The Supercars ownership bid being fronted by Mark Skaife and Craig Kelly would do wonders for the championship, according to their former Holden Racing Team colleague Jeff Grech.

Now the manager of Winton Motor Raceway, Grech enjoyed a storied managerial career at Supercars outfits including the Holden Racing Team.

Skaife won three of his five championships at the then factory Holden team, and ex-Collingwood AFL footballer Craig Kelly had a stint there as CEO.

Skaife, TLA Worldwide – where Kelly is CEO – and associated company TGI Sport are firming as arguably the favourite to buy the majority share in Supercars currently held by Archer Capital.

A sale process guided by Miles Advisory Partners has roared to life in recent times, with the Skaife/TLA proposal one of three or four to advance to the second stage.

Skaife’s expertise and TLA’s resources are considered a strong combination, and on top of already having the support of some key figures in pit lane, Grech believes the pair could be the perfect fit to drive the category forward.

“Craig, he’s a really good guy, very knowledgeable in sport, as you’re probably well aware of,” Grech told Speedcafe.com.

“He helped Mark establish, or re-establish, the [HRT] business back and get involved in some of the sponsorship deals, so a very knowledgeable guy and obviously brought that over from [his Elite Sports Properties company, which was later acquired by TLA].”

Grech to this day reserves praise for the way Skaife and Kelly handled a tricky period in HRT’s history, when the team was sold by administrators following the collapse of Tom Walkinshaw Racing.

“I think he himself, being Craig, managed it fairly well with Mark,” Grech said, before explaining his support of the duo as potentially Supercars’ next owners.

Skaife, Kelly and the HRT crew celebrate winning the 2005 Bathurst 1000. Picture: AN1images.com

“And to be quite honest, I don’t know much about any of the other people tendering, but I think in general if they got the opportunity to buy Archer Capital’s shareholding, I think they would probably do a formidable job.

“I’m not saying [Supercars] is off-track, but they would probably add a lot to the category and futureproof it for years to come.

“Obviously Mark himself and to an extent Craig, are probably very good negotiators.

“I imagine the teams want to retain their shareholding of 35 percent, I think they would have the respect for the ideas that Mark would put forward with Craig on the whole category and where it should be going and how to possibly improve things and all that.

“So, I think the teams would respect that ownership probably more than the others, I would imagine.”

While Skaife is a household name and continues to have a presence as a lead Supercars television commentator, Kelly may not be quite so well known by motorsport fans.

The 55-year-old played 122 games at the top level for the Collingwood Magpies before forging a mammoth portfolio in the sports management and marketing sector with ESP, which he co-founded with former Olympic swimmer Rob Woodhouse.

Kelly continues to be a giant in the AFL player/coach management arena, with TLA also dealing with other mega clients including the NRL, Coca-Cola and Warner Bros.

TLA Australia was acquired by QMS Sport, which now goes by Media Tech, in 2019.

“Craig Kelly is a fantastic guy,” former Supercars boss and now Gold Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane told Speedcafe.com.

“He was a very talented sportsman and he’s been a very talented businessman.”

Among other candidates in the mix to buy Supercars is the Australian Racing Group, which owns categories including Supercheap Auto TCR Australia and could bring benefits via various synergies.

Foundation Supercars co-owner IMG is said to have made the second stage too, while intrigue remains around the status of the Peter Adderton-led consortium’s hopes.

Speedcafe.com understands the general consensus is a desire to secure a new owner for Supercars before the 2021 Repco Bathurst 1000, which is slated for November 4-7.

Skaife (middle) with Jess Yates and Chaz Mostert

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