Jim Dutt

The name Jim Dutt will probably not mean much to modern Formula 1 fans but once he was seen as the man leading a huge American assault on Formula 1. That was back in the 1984 when Carl Haas announced that he had landed a mega-sponsor to fund an American Formula 1 team. The company was Beatrice, a massive US consumer conglomerate, and the man who made the decisions was James Dutt. The deal included not only a US-funded team but also factory engines from the Ford Motor Company.

Dutt, who has died at the age of 77, had taken control of Beatrice in September 1982 and set about completely revamping the company which, at the time, owned around 500 firms including a string of brand name firms such as Samsonite, STP, Avis, Max Factor, Tropicana, Culligan water softeners and Harman Kardon stereo equipment, food companies and a large number of Coca-Cola bottling businesses.

An autocratic chief executive, Dutt decided in 1984 that he would use motor racing to give the company an international image. Dutt was a big racing fan and he went to another Chicago-based businessman Carl Haas with the deal. It was for three-years and featured extraordinary money (at the time). He also sponsored Mario Andretti in CART and the Miami CART event. Dutt's major target was the Chinese consumer market.

As the F1 team was being put together and Andretti was winning in the US, Dutt was toppled in a corporate coup d'etat in July 1985 and it was not long before the new Beatrice management decided that it wanted out of motor racing. But the contracts were signed and for 1985 and 1986 the Beatrice money kept the team going although Beatrice soon fell victim to a vast leveraged buyout by Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts. Dutt's empire was broken up and sold off in parts.

The Beatrice sponsorship was short and ill-fated but it did mark an important moment in the history of F1 sponsorships as it opened the way for more international conglomerates to become involved in the sport, which was dominated up to that point by tobacco companies and automotive firms.

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