Redback's Blair off to the Races

Redback's marketing VP Larry Blair packs up for a two-month sojourn on the CART tour

March 27, 2001

3 Min Read
Redback's Blair off to the Races

Larry Blair, Redback Networks Inc.'s (Nasdaq: RBAK) vice president of marketing, is off to the races. Literally.

Blair, part owner of Brooke Racing, is taking a two-month leave of absence to help find a team sponsor for his company’s Championship Auto Racing Team (CART) (NYSE: MPH) race car, according to an email obtained by Light Reading. Blair sent the note, dated March 26, as a memorandum to Redback’s top executives and its corporate marketing department.

“This isn’t big news, in our opinion,” says Mark Weiner, Redback’s senior director of corporate marketing, when asked about the memo. "It continues to be business as usual just as it is when anyone else takes time off.”

Not big news to Redback officials perhaps--but it may have some Redback investors scratching their heads. Redback shares recently hit 52-week lows, and Blair, a marketing veteran of several startups, was one of the original executives at Redback and led the company's early charge in establishing its name in the Subscriber Management Systems (SMS) market.

Weiner says Blair will return in time for Redback’s activities at the Supercomm show, for which the company is preparing “some really big announcements.”

In the meantime, it's off to the track.

“Running a team at this level of motorsports competition requires mega-bucks and a significant time commitment,” his memo states.

Indeed, rounding up CART sponsors isn’t as easy as it used to be, according to racing industry analysts. “It's been difficult for all the racing teams -- even NASCAR teams -- to get sponsorships this year with all the corporate belt tightening that's going on,” says Breck Wheeler, an analyst at Legg Mason.

Right now Brooke Racing’s car doesn’t have a corporate backer. The car, driven by rookie Max Wilson, sports a Redback logo in several places, but Redback doesn’t have a business relationship with Brooke Racing, a Redback spokesperson says.

“[CART] is in good financial shape but they seem to be struggling to put together a strategic plan,” says Wheeler. “For the teams, this creates a great deal of uncertainty as they try to go out and get sponsorships.”

Meanwhile, Redback -- which has changed CEOs, CFOs, and sales bosses in the past year -- is facing an industry-wide slowdown, just as it tries to migrate from SMS broadband products to optical networking equipment. Redback shares climbed $0.88 (5.9%) to 15.79 Tuesday, just a notch above the stock’s 52-week low of 14.90.

In his memo, Blair held forth that his marketing skills will still be in force as Brooke Racing heads to the Toyota Grand Prix in Long Beach, Calif., on April 8.

“While we didn’t win on the track [during the Monterrey Grand Prix on March 11], we did win in hospitality where there were 37 Redback customer prospects and guests,” Blair’s memo states. “They were all excited about being at the racing event and excited about Redback products – fast cars, fast products, fast revenues!”

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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