How Dark Is This Latest Black Eye?
A roller-coaster of a season just took another dip on Thursday when INDYCAR Chief Operating Officer Marc Koretzky suddenly resigned effective immediately. Quite honestly, I’m not sure if Koretzky actually resigned or was pushed out. The few comments by CEO Randy Bernard sort of sent a mixed signal – to me, at least. On one hand, there were signs that the resignation was a surprise, but then there was the ominous comment from Bernard on Friday of “We needed to go a different direction”.
Ah…the dreaded different direction. If you’ve ever been in a job search, you’ve probably heard the phrase “going in a different direction” and cringed. It’s a nice way of saying we’re choosing a path that doesn’t include you. In this case, it sounds like INDYCAR has charted a course that doesn’t include Marc Koretzky.
Koretzky joined the series a little more than a year ago as Director of Business Development after a three-year stint as Director of Strategic Development of 360 Sports Academy in Atlanta. His most notable achievement in his new job with INDYCAR was implementing the festivities leading up to the season finale at Las Vegas last October. Then last December, he was promoted to COO – taking the place of Terry Angstadt.
I don’t consider myself an IndyCar insider, but quite honestly – I don’t recall hearing the name of Marc Koretzky other than announcing his ascension and departure as the COO of INDYCAR. Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I seem to recall hearing Terry Angstadt’s name quite a bit when he was performing the duties of a COO.
Whether or not Koretzky’s leaving was voluntary or involuntary doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that either way – this is perceived as another black eye that Randy Bernard didn’t need. Ever since the ill-fated Las Vegas race, it has been a tumultuous nine months for Randy Bernard. Some of it has been self-inflicted, while a lot has been not of his doing. But public perception judges whatever happens on his watch – fair or unfair.
However Koretzky hit the exit door, it has shined poorly on Bernard. When Randy Bernard took over in March of 2010, most everyone knew that Terry Angstadt’s days were numbered. It wasn’t that Angstadt did a poor job – quite the contrary. It’s just that his skills pretty well duplicated that of Randy Bernard and there was no need to have two people doing the same thing. I remember when Koretzky was hired in May of 2011, his lack of a racing background raised eyebrows among some skeptics. It was explained away that this was Randy’s type of guy. Randy Bernard had no racing background and look at the job he had done to that point.
As it turned out, this was a bad hire. Regardless of whatever results Koretzky produced, it was bad hire strictly because he only lasted seven months as COO – regardless of whose idea it was for him to leave. Somewhere along the way, someone misjudged Koretzky. Ultimately, the responsibility for the hire falls squarely on Randy Bernard’s shoulders.
If you’ve read this site for long, you know I am an ardent supporter of Randy Bernard. That has not changed. I consider him to be a good and decent man who also happens to be the right man for the job he holds. I’m old enough to remember some decent and not-so decent leaders of this sport. John Frasco, Bill Stokkan and Andrew Craig come to mind in the OK-to-decent category. Jim Melvin, Joe Heitzler and surprisingly Chris Pook fall into the latter category. I won’t even begin to get into Tony George’s legacy here. The point is, I feel very strongly that Randy Bernard is head and shoulders above anyone that has led this sport since the formation of CART in 1978. He has proven that a racing background is not at all necessary to lead this sport. In fact, I think his lack of a racing background is what has brought so many fresh ideas to this sport during his tenure. There were no preconceived notions of what would and wouldn’t work.
Randy Bernard has brought some new and innovative ideas to open-wheel racing. Some have been huge hits, some fell a little flat and others totally missed the mark. But you know what? At least the man is trying something different. Randy Bernard is a marketer, first and foremost. That’s why Terry Angstadt is no longer around. There was no real need for two “idea men”. Marketing and new ideas to bring in new fans is the single most important thing that this series needs. Randy Bernard brings these to the table.
But the series is also in dire need of strong leadership. Despite what you read and hear, Randy Bernard brings this also. But the undercurrent of dissent among a group of owners might indicate otherwise. I believe the one-upmanship over turbo-gate and aero-kits were as much about power in the boardroom as it was about on-track competition. It was brought about to publicly humiliate and undermine Bernard – and it has probably worked to some extent. If Marc Koretzky did in fact leave on his own, the public eroding of Randy Bernard’s support may have been the catalyst.
Randy Bernard did himself no favor with his public tweet about an owner trying to get him fired. It gave the impression that he was as petty as the egotistical owner that was trying to oust him. But if that’s his biggest mistake over the past two and a half years, I don’t consider that too bad.
Bernard is now exactly halfway through his contract. Some want him to leave early. Personally, I’d like to see his contract extended. The man has done an excellent job, despite what some would consider a tough last nine months. While looking at that time period, let’s not forget that there has been some great racing with the new DW12 – a project that was spearheaded by Bernard. There have also been some intriguing storylines brought about by the presence of three engine manufacturers and an all-new engine – all courtesy of the efforts of Mr. Bernard. So while the past few months will probably not be considered Randy Bernard’s most enjoyable part of his tenure, let’s look at his entire body of work before judging him too harshly over the departure of Marc Koretzky.