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JULY 10, 2004

F1 and the Al Maktoums

Eddie Jordan is keeping his cards close to his chest about negotiations that are going on for the Irishman to sell part of his team to the Dubai royal family. Working out what is going on is not easy because there are a large number of members of the Al Maktoum dynasty. The present ruler of Dubai is Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He has several brothers including Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the deputy ruler of Dubai, the crown prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Major General Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. All of them and their families have been working together to turn Dubai into one of the world's top cities by encouraging businesses to invest in and operate from Dubai.

The statement about the acquisition of an F1 team was made by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, the chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation and the Emirates airline. It remains to be seen whether or not there is any link between his activities and those of Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, the man who is behind the A1 Grand Prix series, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the man behind the new Dubai Autodrome.

One connection which may be important is between Sheik Mohammed's brother Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the world of horse racing in which the sheikh is a major player.

The Al Maktoum brothers have been involved in the racing scene in the UK since the 1980s and own a number of stud farms, including one in Ireland. This has brought the pair into contact with the well known businessman JP McManus, who is believed to be one of the men who owns a share in Jordan. The Al Maktoums and McManus have done business together in the past not least over Istrabraq, a highly successful horse which the Dubai royals sold to McManus in the mid-1990s. Istrabraq won 23 victories including three consecutive Champion Hurdles.

It is believed that McManus is one of the members of the Merrion Capital consortium that acquired 49.9% of the Jordan team from Warburg Pincus in October 2003 and it makes sense that he and his fellow investors would want to sell the team on at a quick profit, having stepped in to help Jordan at the end of last year.

It is expected to Eddie Jordan will remain the front man for the team if the deal is confirmed and it is thought unlikely that the Dubai government is seriously looking at any team other than Jordan, although Dubai says it is looking at three different teams.

A company called Grand Prix Investments (GPI) is to acquire a team, which will be headquartered in Dubai and the team will become the official Dubai team in much the same way as the Victory powerboat team some years ago. When the negotiations are finished the team will be rebranded and relaunched in time for the start of the 2005 season.