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JUNE 11, 2004

Might British Airways become an F1 sponsor?

The boss of British American Tobacco, Martin Broughton, has been appointed the new chief executive of British Airways and inevitably this has led to speculation that the airline might become involved in an Formula 1 sponsorship, perhaps even with BAR. Broughton was one of the major forces behind the establishment of British American Racing and fully understands the value of the sport.

British Airways is one of the few airlines in the world which is doing well at the moment and it is possible that a deal in F1 could make sense, but in general terms airlines have avoided F1 because of the potential dangers of the sport. Having said that we have seen occasional airline sponsorships over the years, notably from Saudia and Korean Air, but the companies have tended to stick to race sponsorships, notably with Qantas at the Australian GP, Air Canada in Montreal and Gulf Air at the recent Bahrain GP.

It is worth noting that in recent months the ownership of BAR has been changing with BAT getting rid of the team's debts by swapping debt for equity. This means that as the other partners have chosen not to invest further the BAT share in the team has increased to around 94% with Reynard's share reduced to 2% and Gerald Forsythe's involvement now reduced to around 4%. According to our sources the team will have no debt left by the end of the current year.

Sources at BAR say that the team is close to sponsorship deals with three or four companies but it is anticipated that BAT will continue to be the title sponsor of the team in 2005 and 2006 with the Lucky Strike brand.