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Kaiser leaves Sauber

AS exclusively predicted by INSIDE F1, the Sauber team has now confirmed that Fritz Kaiser has sold his stake in the team to team founder Peter Sauber and major shareholder Dietrich Mateschitz, the boss of the Red Bull energy drink company. The split comes as a result of a disagreement over how the team should be run.

"This move will give Peter Sauber all leverage to concentrate on his challenge to bring the Formula 1 team further up the grid," said Kaiser in a press statement. "The Fritz Kaiser Group wishes to focus more on its core business and on new projects and investments but will continue to support the team and its key sponsors with various services."

Kaiser had held a 24.5% share in the team through his FKG company which is a successful fund management and investment company with a subsidiary which manages sports stars and artists. FKG has been in partnership with Sauber since the end of 1994 and has been responsible for the corporate development and marketing activities of the company. It was Kaiser who was largely responsible for Sauber signing deals with Red Bull in 1995 and with Petronas in 1996.

Kaiser was chairman of Red Bull Sauber Holding, the parent company of the F1 team, but has resigned from that role although he remains in charge of Sauber Petronas Engineering, a joint venture between the team and Petronas, which designed a road car engine for the Malaysian car company Proton. It is expected that this company will be taken over by Petronas.

The big question mark for Sauber is whether or not the team can hold on to the Petronas sponsorship deal without Kaiser. The relationship has not been as successful as the Malaysians had hoped it would be and the contract is due to be renewed at the end of the 2000 season. Sauber is confident that it can convince the Malaysians to stay with a new management structure which will include Heinz Haller, a former top manager in Europe with the Dow Chemical company. Kaiser may, however, convince Petronas that there are better options available and link up with another team. The obvious targets are Arrows and Benetton.

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