JUNE 26, 2000
A deal close for Minardi?
AS we suggested as long ago as January, the American millionaire Tony Johnson is keen to become involved in Grand Prix racing as part of his global expansion of Hidden Creek Investments, the company which controls the automotive component companies Tower Automotive, Dura Automotive and Heavy Duty Holdings.
In recent days we have heard that for the second time Johnson is close to a deal to buy control of Minardi from Gabriele Rumi. Johnson and his partner Rod Campbell, a Detroit public relations executive and a shareholder in the Mo Nunn Racing CART team, came close to buying Minardi last autumn but were beaten to a deal when Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica signed an option to buy the team. This was never taken up and so now Johnson and Campbell are trying again.
Campbell is very well connected with the Ford Motor Company in Detroit and we hear that he has negotiated a deal for the team to use the current Cosworth CR2 V10 engines (being used this year by Jaguar Racing) in 2001, while Jaguar will have a brand new CR3 engine. This is likely to be expensive but money does not appear to be a problem as Johnson's businesses are all very profitable and are expanding fast. Tower Automotive recently made its first significant step into the European market with the $110m purchase of German component company Dr Meleghy GmbH. This company is a major supplier of parts to Audi, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Opel and Volkswagen from its factories in Germany, Hungary and Poland.
Such connections will be very helpful for a Formula 1 team in the long term when it comes to negotiations for engine supplies. Telefonica is not expected to stay at Minardi and the suggestion at the moment is that the firm will move to Benetton in the future to support the Renault factory operation in 2002.
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