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A change of management at Telefonica?

THERE have been increasing rumors in recent days that the chairman of Minardi sponsor Telefonica, Juan Villalonga, may have to stand down from his position because of discontent amongst the companies institutional investors. Villalonga is the major force behind the company's motor racing sponsorships in recent years but his plan to take over the Minardi team was rejected last winter, an indication of opposition to sponsorships within the company.

Stories in the Spanish financial newspapers suggest that Villalonga will be dropped just before the Spanish summer holidays to avoid too much adverse publicity and the possibility of a plunge in Telefonica's share price.

Villalonga has been in charge of Telefonica since 1996. He has been very successful but there has been controversy about alleged insider trading and stock options. In recent weeks Villalonga has been under investigation and this has led two Spanish banks which control a large share of the company and nearly half the board of directors into losing faith in him.

If Villalonga does disappear it will be interesting to see whether the new management decides to continue the F1, CART and Formula 3000 sponsorships.

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