McLaren and Dubai

We are getting conflicting reports about the seriousness of the deal between Team Dubai F1 and McLaren Mercedes-Benz, with some sources suggesting that the deal has been put together at a very high level between McLaren partner Mansour Ojjeh, DaimlerChrysler investor Prince Khaled Al-Waleed and the Dubai ruling family's Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum while others hint that the deal is never going to happen.

The intention appears to be to have the team run by former Mercedes-Benz boss Jurgen Hubbert, who retired from the German car maker recently and has long had ambitions of a role in F1. We have also heard however that the involvement of the Grand Prix Investments company, which is believed to be registered in Guernsey (for tax purposes), may be slightly different than originally envisaged and may not involve the issuing of a bond. The big question is whether or not the new team will have backing from Emirates, the Dubai-based airline which seems to have plenty of money at the moment. Only a few days ago Emirates announced a $170m sponsorship deal with London's Arsenal soccer club which will last for eight years with the team wearing 'Fly Emirates' on its team clothing and the new stadium being built being called the Emirates Stadium. As part of the deal Arsenal will set up a soccer school in the United Arab Emirates. This is by far the biggest deal ever agreed in British soccer.

"Sport transcends cultural and language barriers, and is an important means of fostering interaction between the different peoples of the world," said General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE Defence Minister and Crown Prince of Dubai. "This is an excellent initiative which will not only highlight the UAE globally, but also promote the continuing good relations between the UAE and UK."

Shaikh Ahmed, the chairman of Emirates, says that sport sponsorship is a vital part of the airline's growth strategy.

"For Emirates, sponsorship is an important means of reaching out to our passengers worldwide, through sharing and supporting their interests. Our massive investment in this partnership underscores our confidence in the continued international growth of Emirates, and in the growth of Dubai as a regional hub for business, tourism and sports."

Emirates is also the sponsor of referees and match officials in English soccer, the official partner for the Germany 2006 FIFA World Cup and the title sponsor of Emirates Team New Zealand, which is challenging for the next America's Cup in yachting.

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