MAY 19, 1997
Scrabbling over the BAT loot
THERE is much excitement in F1 circles at the moment over the likely destination of money from British American Tobacco. This is a deal rumored to be worth $375m over five years and - not surprisingly - has brought out the sharpest knifes in the F1 marketing world.
There are several teams desperate to get their hands on the money but, widely, BAT is insisting on having a controlling interest in a team. This is logical not only in terms of protecting the investment but also because Bernie Ecclestone's F1 financial package for the next few years will supply teams with a lot more money - and thus cut costs for team owners.
The most likely destination for the money is the new "superteam" which is quietly being put together by Alain Prost. This is expected to involve Reynard Racing Cars, Jacques Villeneuve and Villeneuve's manager Craig Pollock. His Stellar Promotions company already owns Julian Jakobi's FJ Associates - the company which helped to build up the Ayrton Senna Licensing empire - and Jakobi is already believed to be preparing for the marketing of the Prost empire.
But the deal may not yet be done. Jean-Dominique Comolli, managing-director of the SEITA - the French company which sponsors Prost this year with the Gauloises Blondes brand - says that his company would like to continue building on the motor racing relationship it has had with the team it entered F1 (as Ligier) in 1976 but that he was not interested in becoming involved in a bidding war with other tobacco companies.
Other teams which have been pitching for the BAT money are Williams, Arrows, Jordan, Tyrrell and, most likely, Stewart and Benetton as well.
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