SEPTEMBER 3, 2009
Bahar departs Ferrari, bound for Lotus?
Ferrari has announced that its head of global branding Dany Bahar has left the team after two years. His responsibilities are currently being overseen by Luca di Montezemolo. Bahar is rumoured to be moving to become the chief executive of Lotus, where he will replace Mike Kimberley, who is stepping down because of poor health. It is also rumoured that he will be heading up a new Team Lotus in F1, which will be put together from the remains of the BMW Sauber team. The Lotus company is owned by Malaysian government-controlled car company Proton.
Bahar was previously head of corporate projects at Red Bull and has moved swiftly through F1, although he remains a relatively low profile figure. Born Taner Bahar in Istanbul in 1971 he moved with his family to the town of Silvaplana in Switzerland in his early childhood and grew up there. His father was an electrician and his mother worked part-time in a hotel. A talented linguist, Bahar went to work at the Hotel Conrad's sports and fashion store in the town, before taking a marketing course in nearby in St Gallen. He then made a big breakthrough by helping to organise a rollerblade marathon in St Moritz for which he found sponsorship from Benetton. He ended up working in sports marketing in Rome before moving to Liechtenstein to work with a financial company. It was there that he met Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz and impressed him to such an extent that Mateschitz hired him in 2005 to run elements of his company. One of Bahar's first moves was to negotiate the deal for Red Bull Racing to use Ferrari engines in 2006 and 2007. That led to him being hired by Ferrari to develop the brand.
The word in Malaysia is that Bahar and Mike Gascoyne are involved in the deal, which is also believed to involve Litespeed, the Formula 3 team that originally had the idea to restart Team Lotus and acquired the rights to the name, hoping that it would bring support from Malaysia. The Malaysian government has been involved with the Sauber team since the mid 1990s through Petronas and has been paying as much as $70m a year in sponsorship in recent years. Owning the team is thus a sensible move given the level of investment involved and because the Malaysians want to develop more sales for the Lotus company. The suggestion in Kuala Lumpur is that the team will be revealed in Singapore at the end of the month.
If it goes ahead the deal will be masterminded by Prime Minister Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, who came to office in April.