Tooele County Lawsuit: What Went Wrong
How a China based company bought a $100 million raceway for $7.4 million.
With the twists and turns that consist of a race track, the bid for Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele County, Utah faced more challenges ahead then they expected back in 2015.
Utah Motorsports Campus was formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park from 2006 until October 2015. The 511-acre facility park featured a 4.5 mile racetrack, 2 off road dirt tracks, 13 service garages, and a clubhouse, and an office building.
It was also home to the Ford Performance Racing School and the Shelby American museum and collection.
Miller Motorsports Park holds their racetrack along picturesque snowy mountains within view from the track.
However, it seems that it slowly became a financial burden for the owners, that in October of 2015 the Larry H. Miller Group decided not to renew their lease and transfer the land to Tooele County.
From DeseretNews former CEO Greg Miller of the racetrack said, “It was losing $2 million a year. It’s just too far ahead of its time. It was bad timing. Sponsorships have been cut back and entertainment dollars are not being spent.”
When the opportunity presented itself, Andrew Cartwright and Mitime Investment & Development Group, a subsidiary of the Geely Group of Companies, which is the largest automobile manufacturer in China and owns Volvo and racetracks in China decided to bid for ownership of the property.
Mitime bidding $20 million for the motorsport park, while Andrew Cartwright CEO of Center Point Management bidding a higher offer of $27.5 million.
According to Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. they stated, “Mitime officials stated they plan to continue and expand motorsports operations at the racetrack, use it to train personnel in track operations and motorsports engineering, and as a base to build racing vehicles. Mitime also pledged to actively promote Utah as a Chinese tourism destination.”
Andrew Cartwright planned to invest $140 million to construct condos, homes, and an office building with even providing development plans in a drawing to show support.
Cartwright negotiated with Tooele County Commissioners, however, they ended up choosing the Chinese companies bid.
By October 31, 2015 Mitime was declared the winning bidder, changing the name from Miller Motorsports Park to Utah Motorsports Campus, a subsidiary created by Mitime.
“I don’t know what happened in the final 15 minutes or what went down, but I know that this just doesn’t add up. We were going to pay more money than they were and provide more jobs,” Cartwright told KUTV.
The decision prompted Andrew Cartwright to file a lawsuit against Tooele County and Mitime as of December 17th, 2015.
Cartwright claims that Tooele county broke the law in agreeing to sell to Mitime.
The lawsuit claimed, “The sale, however, is unlawful. By basing its decision on future benefits of uncertain value, the County violated local ordinances and state law that prohibit the sale of County-owned property for anything less than full and adequate consideration. By its unlawful conduct, the County, moreover, deprived Center Point of fair and lawful consideration of its competing bid.”
A judge ruled in Center Point’s favor, overturning the sale of Mitime.
“They have a fiduciary responsibility to Tooele, if the guy worth $2.5 billion dollars can’t pull out a checkbook and match what I’m willing to pay we got a problem,” said Cartwright.
The litigation took approximately three years with the Audit Subcommittee of the Legislative Management Committee ruling that “Toole County mishandled the sale of the Utah Motorsports Campus by not following commonly used best practices selling public property.”
Auditors also determined that “the resulting delay led to operating losses at the park which, in turn, contributed to the county receiving millions less than it would have if the initial sale had been successfully completed.”
Because the court halted the sale of Mititme, the County had to hire someone fast in order to retain its value. Mitime’s subsidiary Utah Motorsports Campus was hired to run the raceway while Tooele continues to look for a buyer.
By April 2018, Tooele county decided to try and sell the property again. They only received one offer of $18.55 million. About $2.5 million less than their original offer in 2015.
Because of the county’s mishandling of the process, their decision cost them.
Auditors determined, “After deducting $9.36 million in operating losses and $1.8 million in litigation costs, the sale of the raceway only produced a $7.36 million gain.”
In total, Tooele County only made a profit of $7.36 million from the accepted offer of $18.5 million due to the liabilities owned to Mitime and the operating losses.
The overall construction cost of the Miller Motorsports Park was “just about $100 million.”
It plays into question why a decision that impacts the residents of Tooele County wouldn’t be properly documented.
Not only does the audit made by the Audit Subcommittee of the Legislative Management Committee declare the county did not correctly document their decision process but they also declare that the county did not identify criteria to evaluate proposals.
This led so much confusion as to the reliability of their sale to Mitime. How can the county not issue a request for proposals? How can any proposal be adequate when there are no formal criteria?
Tooele County did not conduct a fair open process in handling the sale of the property. With such a large economic impact on the county, there needed to be more transparent in their decision-making process.
The net result to the People of Tooele County Utah was a LOSS of -$21,140,000 as Commissions refused to sell tracks for $28,500,000.00. The real question that was never answered was WHY? WHAT DO YOU THINK?