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The future at Arrows is Orange

ALTHOUGH the prime mover behind the Orange sponsorship of the Arrows F1 team Hans Snook is to stand down as chief executive of the company, the mobile phone firm is currently saying that the Formula 1 deal will continue.

"We made a three year commitment in March with Arrows and there will be no change in that capacity," said an Orange spokesman.

Is that the final word on the matter? It remains to be seen. It may be that the management of France Telecom will honour the contracts signed but it must also be noted that the company has little enthusiasm for F1. France Telecom was pitched by several F1 teams (notably Prost) and did not think it was a wise investment. France Telecom boss Michel Bon and the new boss of Orange Jean-Francois Pontal were also pitched several times by F1 teams when they were running the Carrefour supermarket chain a few years ago (which was involved in major expansion at the time) and did not use F1 as they might have done.

Perhaps they will be converted to the value of F1 but if they did not bite when offered a Carrefour deal, particularly when supermarket chains can offset sponsorship costs by getting suppliers to fund the programs (as the Diniz Family do in F1 and Target does in CART) it is unlikely they are going to agree to an F1 deal with a telephone company.

And while everyone involved in the sponsorship is keen for questions not to be asked, there is still some doubt at the top of France Telecom that Orange is the right branding for the company's mobile operations. The new company which Pontal will head is to be called New Orange (at the moment) and will be floated on the Paris Bourse. One must remember that when Snook originally sold Orange to France Telecom he presented the deal as a reverse takeover of France Telecom mobile operations by orange. He was going to remain in charge and that the company was to be floated in London.

Neither of these things have happened so one should question whether the name Orange will survive.

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