BK Racing owner Ron Devine is speaking highly of the trustee appointed by a bankruptcy court to help straighten out the team’s business matters, and is hopeful stewardship of the operation will soon be restored to him.
“My issue is not with him at all,” Devine said of Matthew Smith, who was appointed control last month. “My issue is with Union Bank and that’s what we’re working to fix. The bankruptcy judge has been terrific. He encouraged me to stay with it and I have, and there will be a solution to it.
“I actually think we’re closer than people realize. I hope. We’ll see. So far, we haven’t been able to get it finished, but we’re close.”
Union Bank & Trust is claiming Devine owes it more than $9 million. Devine is also facing claims from other creditors and the Internal Revenue Service. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February.
Devine never thought it was necessary to go down this road and while he hoped it wouldn’t, he acknowledges an opportunity has been provided to “clean up some of the mess.” Committed to running the full Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with the No. 23 Toyota, Devine is particularly concerned about protecting the team’s charter from the sanctioning body.
“Mostly the issue was about protecting that charter and keeping bad things from happening to that. I think it worked from that perspective,” said Devine. “I’m not concerned at all about the financial [aspect] – we had already fixed the type of things that we were doing that needed to be corrected, and I think they [the trustee group] quickly realized that and it’s why they’ve taken a softer, slower approach. It wasn’t like they had to come in and change everything day one. And like I said, they’ve been pretty good to work with.”
A lack of change and disruption to the team is something Devine has been especially pleased with. While he owns the race team, Devine understands that Smith (of The Finley Group) is in charge and makes the decisions. Devine says he’s been staying out of the way and will react only if he sees something destructive being done to the team.
“They’re paying attention – they’re learning our sport and realizing a lot of the activity that goes on around here has self-interest attached to it as opposed to what’s good for the team,” Devine said. “I think they were a quick study on that; I was real impressed. My fight is with Union Bank. My fight is not with this trustee, I get along with him just fine.”
Continued Devine, “Not a whole lot has happened. A lot of people that have tried some stuff have made it embarrassing and they’ve made it difficult. Some of the sponsors are concerned, I’m sure. We’ve been easy prey from that perspective because the unknown is always scary. And that’s what happened to me in court – it was the unknown of doing this. I’ve never done anything like this, so I didn’t know how it was going to be. From that perspective, it added a little anxiety.
“As long as they [Smith and company] try to operate it and run it and do the stuff that’s good for the creditors and the team – I’m a huge investment in this team, I’m one of the ones they’re trying to protect – I want to make sure it goes well and ends well. And I’m pretty sure, not 100 percent, but pretty sure it’s going to end with me running it.”
A status update is scheduled for May 8. Devine says there are still other parties putting in “nonsense” claims that must be dealt with.
“It really wasn’t a financial issue that drove us here. I know it all seems like one,” said Devine. “In all these years, I’ve never stung a vendor – I’ve paid them all and I’ll pay them all here, too. Maybe a little late, but you have to do the right thing and I know what the right thing to do is.”
Wanting to keep the focus on the team, Matthew Smith politely declined an on the record conversation at this time but did not dispute any of Devine’s comments.