Belgium signs up a heavy-hitter

For some days a press release has been expected from the Belgian authorities regarding the future of the Belgian Grand Prix. The authorities originally tried to get Bernie Ecclestone to agree to promote the race but no deal could be found and so a new promotional company has been established, for the moment under the name of Newco which will run the event in 2007. The new company will be presided over by the eminent Belgian politician and businessman Etienne Davignon.

The 73-year-old viscount is a great great grandson of one of the revolutionaries which succeeded in separating Belgium from Holland in 1830. His grandfather was minister of foreign affairs in 1914. He joined the Belgian foreign service in 1959 after receiving a doctorate in law. Within two years was working at cabinet level and in 1964 he became head of the cabinet in a number of governments. In the 1970s he became an influential member of the European Commission and was the first president of the International Energy Agency. From 1977 to 1985, he was European Commissioner for the internal market and a vice-president of the Commission. In 1985 he left the European Commission and joined Societe Generale de Belgique and became its chairman in 1988. He was the co-founder of the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe and its president from 1991 to 2002. He sits on an impressive list of boards of directors and is a major player in SN Brussels Airlines, the airline which succeeded Sabena in 2001.

The appointment of a heavyweight like Davignon is a sign that Belgium is serious about getting a Grand Prix back again and with his business and political connections finding back for the race may be a great deal easier than it has been in the past.

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