JUNE 11, 2002
The demise of Paolo Cantarella
THE resignation of Paolo Cantarella from Fiat is significant in Formula 1 circles only because it means that the Grand Prix World Championship Holding NV organization is now without its chairman. One must presume that his place will be taken by his deputy DaimlerChrysler's Jurgen Hubbert.
When GPWC was launched last autumn five directors were listed: Cantarella, Hubbert, Patrick Faure of Renault, Burkhard Goeschel of BMW and Wolfgang Reitzle of Ford. Six months later two of the five have already lost their jobs because of the current instability in the automobile world. In addition to Cantarella and Reitzle, it is worth noting that Reitzle's boss Jac Nasser of the Ford Motor Company has also taken a bullet since GPWC was established.
When the GPWC was launched one of the major criticisms was that it could not be taken too seriously as its management was going to be changing all the time as automobile executives do not last long in the top jobs. This seems to be a valid point given what had happened and one must therefore ask the question as to whether or not the GPWC deserves to be taken seriously or whether it is (as some believe) simply a negotiating ploy.
If the manufacturers can come to some agreement with the commercial rights holder SLEC there is no need for the GPWC as SLEC can look after the sport with professional (and long-term) management. The issue is simply one of contractual obligations and how the rewards of the sport are divided up. SLEC has been greedy (because it has been allowed to be) and there is going to be some inevitable pushing and shoving to get the percentages involved down to an acceptable level. If the question of who owns SLEC can be sorted out quickly (and with lawyers involved nothing is being done with much speed) then a new structure for the commercial side of the sport could be quickly agreed and then the sport can settle down and teams will be able to go to sponsors and give them reassurance that the sport knows where it is going to be in five years from now.
This is vitally important because at the moment sponsors are being scared away by the threat of two World Championships fighting one another.
Any settlement must also include the revenues which are generated from the sport by Paddy McNally's Allsport Management so that all the commercial interests in F1 become centralized. It would also be wise if any new Concorde Agreement also included a clause which enables the sport to collectively market itself. At the moment Formula 1 is underperforming shockingly in merchandising and this is an area in which a great deal more money could be raised if everyone stopped being primadonnas and worked together.
The questions involved in all of these issues are largely related not to money but to the egos of those involved. It is time for ego to be put aside to make sure that the future of the sport is protected.
Cantarella recently called a meeting of the Formula 1 teams to discuss the GPWC. This is due to take place at Silverstone on July 5. Presumably this meeting will go ahead as planned although the other principals of GPWC may be looking over their shoulders wondering whether they are going to be there or whether they will soon be going the same way as Reitzle, Nasser and Cantarella.
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