JUNE 5, 2000
Teams for sale
EVER since the announcement that Williams had landed sponsorship from the Allianz Group the F1 community has been going through a turbulent phase as other big financial institutions look at buying into the sport. The Monaco paddock was alive with rumors that teams were about to sold. The loudest whispers concerned British American Racing with stories circulating that an Italian businessman was willing to spend $180m to buy the struggling team. This did not seem to be very likely and we believe that it is more likely to be a way of trying to pressure Honda into taking up its first option to buy the team because British American Tobacco has had enough and does not want to invest more in a team which has several more years before it is ready to win races. Honda is interested in buying the team but appears to think (quite rightly) that the price is too high.
Honda responded to the rumors by sending its top men to have very obvious meetings with Eddie Jordan and stories circulated that BAR could lose its Honda deal within a matter of weeks. The good performance of the Jordans in qualifying may also have been part of the game as the team had a "new specification engine" from Mugen.
Elsewhere in the paddock the future of Minardi remains in the air with team owner Gabriele Rumi openly admitting that he wants to sell his stake in the team for around $60m.
"Formula 1 has changed," he said at the weekend, "and to compete we now need a partner. Our aim is to be competitive, not survive with problems, and we can't do that by ourself."
But the rumored buyers who are keen to get Minardi have yet to come up with the money although there are signs that the team may be edging towards some deal which will involve the current Peugeot engines rebadged in some form.
There is no doubt that Sauber is also negotiating with at least one potential buyer, rumors suggesting that this is a large financial institution. We have heard suggestions that this is either the vast French insurance company Axa or the UnionĘdesĘBanques Suisses (UBS). The man behind the deals appears to be the team's new chief executive officer HeinzĘHaller.
There has been a lot of talk about Arrows being for sale and there were a large number of Morgan Grenfell Private Equity men running around the paddock. MGPE owns half the team at the moment. We also heard stories that Prost Grand Prix may also be for sale, Alain having decided that he is not cut out for running an F1 operation. It remains to be seen whether the team will remain with Prost as the figurehead but such a deal appears to make a lot of sense.
The big question which many of the commercial people in the paddock were struggling to answer was who are the buyers of the teams beyond those which have made themselves obvious. Our sources say that there are a surprising number of different groups which appear to have money available.
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