MARCH 9, 2009

Brawn to get backing from bwin?

The new Brawn GP team is reported to have landed funding from the Austrian online betting company Bwin Interactive Entertainment. This would explain why there was so many delays with Honda agreeing to sell the team as online gambling remains problematical in legal terms in many countries although others have concluded that it is impossible to control and have started to issue licences. Bwin is the biggest such company and has been listed on the Austrian stock exchange since 2000. It was founded in 1999 by Manfred Bodner, a US-educated Internet businessman, and Norbert Teufelberger a casino executive with the Austrian national gambling business. The company chairman is Hannes Androsch, who was Austria's Minister of Finance from 1970 till 1981 and Vice-Chancellor of the Republic of Austria between 1976 till 1981. He later held senior positions with the OECD and the International Monetary Fund.

The company has run into trouble in some countries where there are national monopolies running gambling. The company's two founders were arrested in France in 2006, but were released soon afterwards. The company is gradually building up a number of licences in different markets, often by buying local businesses and its revenues have shot from $1.9m in 2000 to more than $450m in the last published accounts. Since 2006 the company has been heavily involved in sponsorships in soccer, beginning with AC Milan and then moving on to AS Monaco and Real Madrid. The company offers sports betting, poker, casino games and soft games with most revenue coming from poker and sportsbetting. The company now also sells licences which provide licensees with marketing, finance and administration, corporate communications, controlling and IT services.

The firm is actively looking for business opportunities in Asia, where it has opened a subsidiary in Beijing, and in South America, where bwin has already launched operations in Mexico and Argentina.

On the surface the sponsorship in F1 would fit well as the company does offer bets on the F1 races. We have heard that the colour scheme would feature black and orange, which is the Bwin company colour.

It remains to be seen if the rumours are confirmed.