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Who was the mysterious Minardi second bidder?

THE sale of Minardi, for a rumored $50m, has yet to be officially confirmed by the new owner Telefonica but we hear that the Spanish telecommunications company, which had been dithering for several months, had to move quickly to avoid the Italian team being bought by a second bidder. There has been some speculation as to who this may have been but there are a variety of different possibilities - although none of them are immediately obvious.

With Toyota moving in to lock up the 12th entry, the demand for F1 teams - and hence the price - is going to rise and there are several groups looking to buy control of a Formula 1 team. Robin Herd and Mike Earle's plans to revive the March name is one possibility but we understand that there is still no major backing for the project. Herd has been trying to raise money on the OTC share market in the United States having acquired a publicly-traded shell company called NEC Properties. This was publicly-traded but had no revenues and no assets. The aim was for March to use this vehicle to raise money, attracting buyers for the shares with the ambitious plans. A previous attempt by March to raise money with this "reverse merger" technique was tried with a company called Beechport Capital in September. It failed.

David Richards of Prodrive has raised around $50m with his recent sale of equity in Prodrive but it is hard to see why he would chose to buy Minardi which has little to offer except the entry as all the engineering side of the business would have to reconstituted in Britain and that would be expensive. Fritz Kaiser also has access to money after the sale of 24.5% of his shares in Sauber but he does not seem to have been involved and there are signs that his Fritz Kaiser Group has some arrangement to continue working to market the Sauber team and is involved in the organization of the 2000 Sauber launch in February.

Australian airline magnate Paul Stoddart has announced his ambition to one day own a Formula 1 team but his deal to run the Arrows test team would seem to suggest that he was not a player in the Minardi negotiations.

For some time we have been hearing vague rumors of a mysterious American who is keen to invest in motorsport on a global scale to support his successful technology businesses in the United States. Very little is known about the project although it may have links with telecommunications companies - and so could be linked to the Telefonica deal.

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