The agreement to rebrand the museum comes after a mediation with the tobacco company ITG.
The museum’s founder, William Spencer said the museum opened in 2005 “as a way to say ‘Thank You’ to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for their 33-year sponsorship of the Winston Cup Series and as a “gift” to the City of Winston-Salem to help preserve our unique place in NASCAR history.”
R.J. Reynolds debuted the Winston brand of cigarettes in 1954, and, in 1971, NASCAR launched the Winston Cup Series when the Winston brand became the title sponsor of NASCAR’s elite division, according to the history on the museum’s website. That sponsorship — and the Winston Cup Series — ended in 2003.
The Winston Cup era is considered by most racing fans to be the “modern era” of NASCAR. The popularity of the sport grew substantially during this time that was defined by racing legends like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
R.J. Reynolds later sold the brand, along with Salem and Kool, to Imperial Tobacco Group, now Imperial Brands, in June 2015.
“As everyone is fully aware, ITG has filed numerous lawsuits against me, my wife, our primary businesses, and the museum saying that ITG’s purchase of Winston Cigarettes from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 2015 somehow gave it ownership of Winston Cup history,” Spencer said in July. “They claim we are infringing on their ability to market their cigarettes to racing fans.”
Spencer and the museum have fought back against ITG for four years, including two lawsuits that were dismissed. The third lawsuit, Spencer said, was “exhaustingly ongoing.”
In July, Spencer announced that the museum would close due to the costs of the legal battle not being worth it, both materially and personally.
However, the museum opened its doors once again on Sept. 1.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Spencer was fulfilling a voluntary 60-day shutdown in response to a motion that ITG Brands filed.
On Wednesday, the museum announced that they have agreed to rebrand within 90 days, putting an end to the legal battle with ITG Brands after a 13-hour-long mediation.
Spencer says the agreement will allow the museum to maintain ownership of the “overwhelming majority” of its assets.
Will and Christy Spencer’s full statement can be read below:
We Need Your Help!
On Wednesday, Sept. 13 we had a 13-hour mediation that resulted in an agreement that fully and finally resolves the pending litigation. The details of the agreement will be available to the public soon. As a part of that agreement, if we remain open, we must rebrand and rename the museum within 90 days. We are weighing our options and working through what the next steps will be for us. But, in the meantime, we are asking our fans and followers to send us naming suggestions to help inspire us! Send us your suggestions via Facebook or Instagram.
We do believe there is a positive side to every situation and one major positive for us is that the agreement makes clear that the overwhelming majority of the assets of the Winston Cup Museum belong to Will Spencer, the museum’s founder.
From the very bottom of our hearts we cannot thank each of you enough for your support, devotion and love of the Winston Cup Museum and the history it represents. There is no other collection quite like the one we have amassed, and it has given us great pleasure to be able to share that with you for the past 18 years under the banner of the Winston Cup Museum. We will see what the future holds!
Most Gratefully, Will and Christy Spencer