SEPTEMBER 13, 2005
The sale of Jenson Button
There are reports that Williams has turned down a $21m offer from Jenson Button and BAR for the release of the British driver from his Williams contract in 2006 and 2007. This is interesting in that it confirms suggestions that Williams has decided that Button does have a price tag and that the task in hand is to discover what the Button camp and BAR is willing to pay for Jenson's liberty. This will be an interesting exercise given that Button has still to convince the F1 circus that he is an out-and-out winner, rather than merely a good journeyman. BAR seems to be convinced that Button is worth every penny of the rumoured $88m that it wants to pay him over the next five years. Given that Button's current predicament is self-induced one must presume that BAR will be acting as Button's banker in the negotiations but will want some of the money which will go to Williams to be repaid from Jenson's salary in the years ahead. This would still leave Jenson being paid a sizeable amount of money for a man who has yet to win a Grand Prix but he might have to live without expensive new toys for a year or so.
One should remember as well that in addition to money from BAR and Button, Williams will benefit from not having to pay Button's $10m salary in 2006 and 2007 and if the team hires a relatively cheap replacement - which will almost certainly be the case - it will be banking a very large sum of money which was otherwise committed to Button. This will pay not only for the Cosworth engine deal but also help to make up for any shortfall in sponsorship income in the years ahead. The team is fortunate in that it usually does long-term deals with its big sponsors but income may be reduced slightly if there are performance clauses. In the interim the team has time to improve performance and find new backers.
Button may end up being a better investment if he is sold than if he stays with Williams.
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