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Donington not adding up
Posted By:   |  11 Feb 2009   |  7:16 am GMT  |  11 comments

I posted last month on Donington, which is due to host the British Grand Prix in July 2010, seventeen months from now. I gave details of a conversation I’d had with Simon Gillett at the Motorsport Business Forum in December. But now some worrying noises are coming out on this story, regarding the circuit’s financial position

The story has run this week in the Mail, the Express and the Telegraph. It refers to the accounts for the year 2007, which were filed at Companies House on 21st January this year, three weeks ago.

They refer to the eye-catching figures of £67 million of debt and losses of £12.7 million. I’ve seen the accounts and that’s definitely what they say, but it’s not clear what the debt is made up of, beyond a £16 million bank loan, £4m of which is guaranteed by Gillett’s partner Paul White. White owns a construction business in the Midlands.

The accounts are for year end 2007, so they cover the period at the peak of the business cycle and the assets are valued in there at £55 million. It does not say who valued them. Not much in the property world is worth the same today as it was in 2007. Interestingly, the accounts say that the group meets its day to day capital requirements through the bank loan and through support from White. White has indicated that he is willing to go on supporting it, but the auditor notes that he is under no obligation to continue to fund it. There is no mention of Gillett guaranteeing any of the loan.

There are warning signs all over the accounts from the independent auditors, who say that they were ‘not able to obtain or review’ documents of financial forecasts or evidence that Donington has binding commitments with providers for the funds required.

This is interesting because Gillett told me last year that he had a deal with IMG and Goldman Sachs on a debenture scheme, which guaranteed him the money. He has said all along that he would reveal details of the debenture scheme at the end of March, so we’ll have to wait until then to get the full picture. Bernie Ecclestone has said that he wants to see that the thing is on track by September if the race is to go ahead.

The auditors add that the current downturn creates ‘uncertainty particularly over a) the level of demand of the group’s services and b) the availability of bank and other finance in the foreseeable future.’

Gillett told Ian Parkes of PA Sport this week that the whole thing is on track, despite the doubters. He denies that it has the debts being quoted and says that a computer model of the new track facilities will be launched very soon. He said that the 2008 accounts had not been filed yet, but the current stories relate to the most recent set of accounts, for 2007.

All very mysterious. One thing is clear though; Abu Dhabi this ain’t.

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11 Comments
  1. Curiouser and curiouser. Is there a publicly-viewable copy of the accounts online anywhere?

  2. Lee Grant says:

    Well done James – excellent work!

    It seems that very few people ‘in the know’ have publically backed Donnington so as someone watching the story unfold from the ‘fan’ point of view it is really hard to know what is really going on.

    For the sake of the British Grand Prix I really do hope that either Donnington produce the goods or Silverstone is allowed to carry on…should they wish to drink from the poisoned chalice again!

  3. john g says:

    wouldn’t it be nice to get tyres that actually performed well and had a large operating window instead of being designed to drop off badly simply in order to ‘enhance the spectacle’…

  4. Ben says:

    Just to say; Great blog. Look forward to reading it as the season develops.

  5. rpaco says:

    Keith: http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk/ select WebCheck

    Then pick your Donington if you know the correct company name. (then yer pays yer pound and downloads yer stuff)

    “Donington Park Properties” appears listed, is this connected?. Strangely the Donington web site gives none of the normal corporate data expected. No company reg number, no address no official company name until you get to the bit about F1 returning, where the name of ” Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd” appears. This name is preceded in the Companies House list by Donington Ventures Ltd which it shows as “dissolved”, presumably this is/was also connected. This always makes me wary and immediately begs the question what was wrong with the first company? Where did the assets go when it was dissolved? Who are/were the shareholders etc

    Unfortunately it is very possible to hide stuff in accounts so you need the full breakdown and not what is publicly available. JA probably knows people who know people who have full access.

    Incidentally Wikipedia says “Originally part of the Donington Hall estate, it is leased by Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (150 years) from owner Tom Wheatcroft. Used as a motor racing track, it is also the venue for the Download Festival. Donington Park has a contract to stage the Formula One British Grand Prix for a period of ten years from 2010.”

    I just have to stick this bit in too because its such a great bit of name dropping:

    “In 1935 the first 300-mile Donington Grand Prix was won by Richard “Mad Jack” Shuttleworth in an Alfa Romeo P3. In the 1937 Donington Grand Prix and 1938 Donington Grand Prix, the race winners were respectively Bernd Rosemeyer and Tazio Nuvolari, both in Auto Union ‘Silver Arrows.’

  6. Curiouser and curiouser. Is there a publicly-viewable copy of the accounts online anywhere?

    Keith: Presumably at Companies House if you’re prepared to fork out for the level of web access that allows viewing.

    Free information here: http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk/c7edffdc0d6621db2602d83c9018d7cb/compdetails

    From this we can learn that the next accounts are due on 31/10/2009 and the next companies return on 25/12/2009 – but not much more. The last members’ list was submitted on 27/11/2008 which tallies with what we know about changes of personnel in September.

    To learn more you have to pay – the princely sum of a pound for each bit of info, which you might consider well worthwhile…

  7. Ben James says:

    Absolutely loving the blog, I am absolutely hooked, I keep checking back at least 20 times a day, honest, check your stats!

    The ITV site is still excellent, though I have to say I am very disappointed with the BBC’s F1 website, it is poorly laid out and very few updates!

    I hope your F1 plans include advising the BBC in some way, because they clearly need your help!

    Anyhoo I just wanted to ask if you have heard anything regarding Honda and more importantly Jenson Button. I will be devastated if he doesn’t not stay in F1 this year. Whilst I have really enjoyed watching Lewis create history, I have also not enjoyed watching Jenson struggle at Honda for so long. I really believed that this year we were going to see his best ever, given the promise of a Ross car and a restructured hierarchy at Honda.

    Please if you can keep us updated on any developments or even non-developments on our Jens, just to see that people are still talking about him would make me feel better!

  8. brian wood says:

    The part ‘there is no mention of Gillett guaranteeing any of the loan’ made me laugh.

    Clearly so few people out there know Mr Gillett that well. The reason he has not guaranteed any part of the loans etc is that he himself has no money to do so.

    This man is a master salesman who previously tried to sell this idea to another group of investors who got burned when Mr.Gillett was proposing the Donington site as an Motorcycle and Rally centre.

    I’m fairly sure that the previous company listed as Donington Ventures may well have been those investors who funded Gilletts dreams that time around.

    Mr. Gillett is very good at spending other peoples money it would seem and then escaping any responsiblity.

    Go back even further and you’ll again find Mr.Gillett as the man behind a failed motorsport park in South Wales where again he spent lots of other peoples money for it to fail in the early stages.

    I know who the people were but will not print their names here.

    Dig back even further regarding Mr. Gillett and you’ll uncover many many people in personal and business life who’ll tell you some ‘interesting’ stories of the man, including the Police in South East Wales regarding his involvement in a serious road crash and dangerous driving matter. This is a matter of public record (press) and involved a race on public roads that led to life long injuries for an innocent family.

    I could go on……….

    It would be a sad day if the British F1 Grand Prix were to end but there are a lot of people out there who will toast the day when the Gillett dream world finally ends and he disappears.

  9. rpaco says:

    Oh dear now the County planning committee have their daggers out as well.
    Donington looks doomed.

    But it can’t be used in its present state full of bulldozers and earthworks, so when it is abandoned what will Tom Wheatcroft do with the mess?

    Bernie is £734m out of pocket since his divorce settlement the other day so maybe the rumours about him stepping in and saving the day are even more unfounded than than they seemed unlikely at the start.

    Start learning Korean Lewis and Jense ‘cos your home GP is shifting to the east.

  10. love the theme and finally a blog where the font is not burning into my eyes.

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