APRIL 15, 2008
Berger hopes for Kuwaiti cash
Scuderia Toro Rosso is up for sale but former F1 driver Gerhard Berger wants to hold on to his share in the team and is looking for a buyer for the shares currently owned by Red Bull. Berger popped up this week in Kuwait, talking to Anwar Bukhamseen, a member of one of the country's most powerful business families, and a leading player in the Kuwait International Automobile Club (KIAC).
Kuwait has lagged behind the other Gulf states in the development of motorsport activities, and the government is not showing any intention of funding racing activity in the same way as has been seen in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. It hopes to follow the Dubai route and use private money to fund the construction of a circuit.
Berger says that everything is possible but argues that a team gives a country exposure every other weekend and wants Kuwaiti money for Toro Rosso. He says that he hopes that there are businessmen who will help to develop motorsport in Kuwait. The Bukhamseen Group would be a good partner for Berger. It is involved in hotels and resorts, tourism; real estate development; banking and insurance; automobiles; food and beverages. It is also a shareholder in the country's cable TV company, the national airline and the Egyptian Gulf Bank. It has also invested heavily in Dubai where it is a major player in the Business Bay development. It also has operations in Egypt, Syria and the Lebanon.
It is worth noting that David Richards, who is also looking for money for his Prodrive F1 operation, is already involved in a partnership with Investment Dar, a company which is part-owned by the Kuwaiti government. The alliance enabled Richards to buy the Aston Martin car company.
Kuwait is a small countrry but it is one of the strongest economies in the region, as it boasts 10% of the world's proven oil reserves. Oil accounts for 95% of the country's exports and 80% of the government income. The country suffered a setback in 1990 when it was invaded by neighbouring Iraq but it was liberated by UN coalition forces early in 1991. It boasts a population of 2.5m. Thus far there has been little diversification in the national economy but the country has made considerable investments in companies around the world. There are hopes that as Iraq settles down after the recent conflict, Kuwait will become the gateway to Iraq, which boasts a population of 27m people.