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Arrows and Lotus

IN recent days there has been some speculation that David Hunt - the owner of the Team Lotus name - has been having talks with Tom Walkinshaw of the Arrows team about joining forces. Walkinshaw said at the recent European Grand Prix that he is looking for a new investor in the team following the departure of Prince Malik ado Ibrahim and that a percentage of the team might be available. We understand that this would be a 20% shareholding which Walkinshaw seems to think is worth about $40m. By coincidence this is about the same amount of money as Hunt is understood to have found for Lotus. This money is rumored to be from a venture capitalist company called Apax Partners & Co., one of the world's largest private equity organizations, which operates 12 offices around the world and administrates 22 different funds worth $5bn.

The group currently has investments in around 200 firms around the world including both traditional companies and high technology firms. Recent deals include the sale of toolmaker Spear & Jackson and investments in dentistry, jewelry, the Internet and biotech firms. An investment in Formula 1 would not be a surprise given the deal last winter between Eddie Jordan and Warburg Pincus & Co., a similar firm.

Walkinshaw could certainly use the money as he needs to fund his Supertec engine program and to hire Olivier Panis - or another top driver - so as to be in a position to score some good results in 2000, while he waits for his planned partnership with Renault-Nissan to get off the ground. It is possible that a deal could be struck to get the Lotus name back into F1, in a similar fashion to the disastrous Pacific Team Lotus deal of 1995 when Hunt formed "an alliance" with Pacific╩Grand╩Prix. The deal was intended to keep the Lotus name in F1 and help Pacific to raise sponsorship. It did not work and Pacific quit F1 at the end of the year.

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