Honda website
Honda website

DECEMBER 16, 1996

Rothmans pulling out?

THREE different sources are telling us that Rothmans has decided not to continue its sponsorship of the Williams team when the contract comes up for renewal later this year. This will mean that Williams needs to find a new title sponsor for the 1998 season.

The Rothmans Williams Renault partnership started in 1994 and after a rocky start - Ayrton Senna was killed in Rothmans's third event - has enjoyed a nearly 50% success record with Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, David Coulthard and NigelÊMansell collecting 24 victories in the last 49 races. The initial deal for 1994 and 1995 was extended to cover 1996 and 1997 as well.

The success may not, however, be enough to keep the company in motor racing. There are signs that Rothmans International is going to be sold because its parent company, South Africa's Rembrandt Group, is planning to get out of the increasingly restricted tobacco industry and concentrate on the satellite TV market. In 1993 Rembrandt split up the original Richemont Group, creating Rothmans International for its cigarette businesses (Rothmans, Peter Stuyvesant, Dunhill and Cartier) and Luxco for its luxury goods companies (Dunhill, Mont Blanc, Simplo, Karl Lagerfeld, Baume & Mercier, Cartier and Piaget).

In recent months Rothmans International has been buying back $2.3 billion of shares from small investors in what appears to be further preparation for a sale and it may be that the F1 sponsorship is no longer considered necessary.

Rothmans has been involved in a variety of different forms of motor sport since the mid-1970s. There was considerable success in rallying with Ford and Opel, in sportscar racing and rally-raids with Porsche and in motorcycle racing with Honda.