OCTOBER 14, 1996
Ligier and Prost
SINCE Ligier boss Flavio Briatore bought out Guy Ligier's remaining shares in the team in August it has been fairly clear that the Italian has been trying to sell the French team and that Alain Prost is the man who is going to take over.
In March it was revealed that French Minister of Youth and Sport Guy Drut was trying to organize a takeover to take the team back into French hands. One of his aides Jean-Michel Schoeler started negotiations over the future of the team as long ago as January when Guy Ligier organized a meeting between Drut and Briatore. The Italian agreed that he would sell his controlling interest in the team to French investors if they could be found. At the time it was reported that French President Jacques Chirac - an ally of Prost - was very eager for Ligier to be used to as a showcase for French technology.
In August Briatore announced that he had bought out Guy Ligier's remaining 15% of the shares, thus clearing the way to sell the team in its entirety - Ligier having blocked previous sales. Guy's agreement to sell is believed to have included an undertaking from Briatore that he would not close down the operation at Magny-Cours.
There were rumors at the Hungarian GP that a deal with Prost was going ahead but would not be announced until the whole package is in place. The key appears to be an engine supply for 1998 and Prost was seen chatting intently with every Peugeot man in the paddock. He also had meetings with Peugeot president Jacques Calvet. If Alain can get a Peugeot engine supply for 1998 the timing would be perfect as his longtime ally John Barnard will be available to lead the technical team after August of next year. Barnard has an option to buy the Ferrari Design and Development facility at Shalford and Ferrari wants to get rid of it.
Prost - who has been working as a consultant with McLaren this year - has not yet renewed his deal to stay with the team and McLaren boss Ron Dennis says he wants a long-term deal with Alain or nothing.
Everything now appears to hang on whether or not Peugeot agrees to supply Prost with engines. If the engine-maker says yes we expect the deal to go ahead.
Flavio Briatore will be hoping this happens quickly as the disappearance from the team of Pedro Diniz and his $10m budget means that money is very tight next year as the Gauloises Blondes money is only enough to cover the Mugen Honda engine supply deal.
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