SEPTEMBER 15, 2009

A mystery company buys BMW Sauber

BMW has announced that "Qadbak Investments Ltd" has agreed to purchase the BMW Sauber F1 team. The company will be represented in the team by a Swiss person called Lionel Fischer. This tells us very little except that whoever is buying the team does not want us to know who they are. The fact that the name of the company includes "Ltd" suggests that it is probably registered in one of the Caribbean tax havens, such as the British Virgin Islands, Bahamas or perhaps even the Channel Islands. Swiss trusts can be covered by the laws of any jurisdiction but are simply managed by a Swiss trustee. If there is no Swiss resident benefiting from the trust there is no Swiss tax although each of the 26 Swiss cantons have taxations schemes of their own, the cheapest usually being Zug. The main reason for establishing a corporate foundation is to preserve the assets of private individuals. Many corporate foundations exist only to increase the size of assets being held. BMW says that Qadbak represents "the interests of certain Middle East and European based families" but they clearly do not want people knowing who they are. What we do know is that Qadbak was involved in the purchase of the Notts County soccer club in England. In that case, Qadbak created a British Virgin Islands company called Munto to acquire the soccer team. This appointed Peter Willett as the chairman. He is a key player in Al Thani Investment Group, which is an oil-rich investment company based in Dubai and headed by Abdullah bin Saeed al Thani. The Al-Thani family is also the royal house of Qatar. However, while one can speculate that Qadbak is a Qatari-dominated company, it is worth noting that the name is probably an acronym for the entire region: one can speculate that QADBAK stands for Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Kuwait.

There is no doubt, however, that as an independent automobile company, answering to its shareholders, BMW needs to be quite sure that any deal is done with the right kind of people who have the kind of money that is needed. The Middle East has big ambitions in the automotive world as has been seen in the recent Daimler/Aabar and Porsche/Qatar deals.