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BMW Sauber sold to Swiss and Arab investors
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BMW Sauber sold to Swiss and Arab investors
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Sep 2009   |  12:52 pm GMT  |  47 comments

BMW has sold its stake in the BMW Sauber F1 team to a Swiss company which represents wealthy families from Europe and the Middle East. Judging from the wording, the group has bought the whole team, including Peter Sauber’s stake.

Earlier today it was announced that the team’s slot on the grid had been taken by the Malaysian backed Lotus concern. Because BMW didn’t sign the Concorde Agreement along with the other teams, it lost its rights to TV and prize money and is valuable spot on the grid. I can’t help but feel that it played a bad hand by not signing the agreement at the time. It made the asset less valuable and has put them on the outside.

The FIA said this morning that the BMW Sauber team put a strong proposal in, but that it judged the Lotus proposal to be better. The FIA is reviewing the possibility of having a 14th team, whereby the BMW Sauber team would get a place if another team dropped out.

Although FOTA said at the time BMW Sauber was left on the dock, when the Concorde Agreement ship sailed away, that it would do what ever it could to help the team get back to the grid, it will be interesting to see whether there is a place for the team.

It remains to be seen whether all the existing teams plus all four of the new teams will actually make it. All eyes are on Renault at the moment, to see what effect the current scandal over Singapore may have on their desire to continue. Today’s Times has coverage of Renault’s audio tapes and telemetry from the event. It also suggests that Pat Symonds has been offered immunity from prosecution if he drops Flavio Briatore in it. Sources in France suggest that he may not see out the week as team principal.

The BMW statement said, “BMW AG, based in Munich, Germany, is pleased to announce today that Qadbak Investments Ltd, a Swiss-based foundation which represents the interests of certain Middle East and European based families, has agreed to purchase the BMW Sauber F1 Team, based in Hinwil, Switzerland. The contract was signed today (Tuesday). A strong investor has therefore been found for the Hinwil-based team. Qadbak’s interest in the team will be represented by Lionel Fischer, a Swiss national.”

There is a lot going on in F1 at the moment, lots of jostling for position, equity stakes being bought in teams and general movement. The landscape is changing pretty quickly, even for established teams like McLaren, whose long term relationship with Mercedes is open to question after the German manufacturer appears to have bought a controlling interest in Brawn.

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47 Comments
  1. Adrian says:

    Interesting and hectic times indeed, thank God we have James Allen here to sort the wheat from the chaff…

    Thanks again James for your priceless insight. Too many sites seem to run any story that they think will grab readers’ attention without really checking it’s voracity – something that can never be said of you.

  2. Lady Snowcat says:

    Controlling interest in Brawn?….

    I hadn’t realised it was a controlling interest…

    1. James Allen says:

      So I understand it. It makes little sense to have another minority stake where you cannot control anything..

    2. jeremy says:

      75% within 3 years. Presumably once the Mclaren exclusive deal is up in 2011 it will pave the way for the new Mercedes Brawn GP of 2012.

  3. Lady Snowcat says:

    PS…

    The latest is that Rosberg has signed for Brawn which would certainly suit Merc…

  4. lynnduffy says:

    A voracious story indeed! LOL

    Every time I read a story about BMW Sauber I find myself getting angry and how they have mismanaged their withdrawal. If they had just bloody well signed up, they’d have (probably) held onto the drivers, and certainly held onto their slot.

    The Lotus name is not the Lotus team of old, and it will take all the new teams a number of years to come up to speed.

    Has anyone gone through next year’s regs with enough attention to tell me whether there is a 107% rule or something similar? I’d hate to go back to the days of the yellow mobile chicanes of the Fortis.

    1. Phil says:

      Don’t forget this company (team!) is run by German. No offence but these guys are ruthless.

      Look at Rover as a case in point and remember who owns Mini.

  5. ah1 says:

    Why have Nelson Piquet Jnr and Pat Symonds been offered immunity? I can understand trying to put people in a situation where they feel comfortable sharing information, but surely this is unfair. What if Nelson Piquet and Pat Symonds made unsporting decisions during this whole thing, surely they deserve punishment also? (Im not suggesting they did by the way, its just the principal). It sounds to me like Mosley using his power to get rid of another person in F1 he doesnt like before he leaves. The FIA should act fairly in this situation and I dont think they are.

    1. C.M. says:

      Exactly my thoughts. FIA’s actions seem very wrong to me. 3 people involved and 2 of them get immunity. It means that there’s only 1 left to get punishment, if it comes. Mosley is targeting only Briatore. Doesn’t even care what part did other 2 guys play. Let’s see how it all ends, most I wanna hear what part did Symonds play in all this.

    2. Phil says:

      Immunity from what….think about it. The FIA aren’t going to fine them. If the race was fixed then there reputation is going to stink so unlikely they will work again in F1.

      However, if Flav is guilty or his reputation is tarnished that will lose him an awful lot of money.

  6. Babur says:

    James, it would be great if you could do a post on how such deals are made. How does one go about selling/buying an F1 team? How does a team know who is a serious buyer? Are there brokers invovled? What’s the cash out someone like Peter Sauber would see from a deal like this? Etc.
    Thanks for the blog!Great stuff.

  7. Robert says:

    I love this site!

    It does seem odd that out of the blue on the same day it is announced that a new team is admitted dropping an existing out of the running, whilst that same existing team finds a new owner of which there was no sight of but a week ago. Are these two things connected? Whilst not being a manufacturing team “Lola” is an iconic name and the new BMW team will not be. With Renault and Toyota perhaps going is it likely that this was designed to make sure a big brand name was added in?

    1. James Allen says:

      If you look at the FIA’s statement about Lotus they do say that they went with them even though the BMW bid was a strong one, so it was ready and lined up from the looks of things. But there is no place on the grid for them at the moment, unless FOTA agrees to having a 14th team. FOTA did say that they would go out of their way to help the team stay in F1…

      1. Phil says:

        yeah, they will replace Renault on the grid next year….this thing is all sorted before that hearing in Paris.

  8. Jon says:

    So if no other team drops out, and they don’t allow 14 teams, BMW don’t have a place on the grid. Can’t think that’ll be a good purchase. Buy an F1 team that can’t race in F1. Doesn’t seem like a sensible idea to me.

  9. John says:

    For us readers in the states – when you say “Today’s Times coverage”, do you mean the Financial Times? I took a look on their website and could not find this. Would you mind posting a link?

  10. Michael C says:

    On the face of it BMW appeared to have cocked up royally – but given what’s going on – not least with Renault – the team is probably (hopefully) going to be on the grid next year in any event

  11. Steve JR says:

    Max Mosely will surely be happy with Briatore’s scalp to add to his growing collection that includes Ron Dennis, and of course, his own from the FOTA show down that he won / lost so gloriously.

    Without Max in charge of the FIA for 2010, how can F1 hope to keep the gossip media happy?

    1. Mario says:

      amusing comment Steve

  12. Martin Collyer says:

    It certainly looks like the net is closing on Flavio. The case against him better be good or folks will have a field day saying it’s a vendetta, Mosley v Briatore.

    Are there any conditions attached to this sale James? That it is conditional on the team getting it’s entry accepted for example.

  13. Richard says:

    Max, Nelson and father must be rubbing their hands !

    Max loathed Dennis and he was out.
    Max loaths Flavio and he’ll be soon out.

    Nelson has got Flavio out – at the expense of never driving in F1 again, but I suspect he thinks that a price well worth paying ….

  14. Craig says:

    This is great news, lets hope they can find a slot on the grid for them!

  15. MartinWR says:

    I rather thought Pat Symonds was actually being offered immunity if he tells the truth, rather than tries to drop somebody in the brown stuff just to suit the powers that be. So I hope he does simply tell the truth, without fear or favour, although it rather sounds as if telling the truth in this case will mean losing his job. Bit of a dilemma, eh? Unfortunately any revelations of a rigged race result that may emerge will come far too late for the man who would have been the rightful (and worthy) 2008 World Drivers Champion, Felipe Massa. Maybe he would be able to sue Renault for loss of earnings.

    If Mr Symond’s statement does result in the raging bull of Formula One getting his just deserts at last, I wouldn’t be the one to shed many tears. Never did like bullies, even less cheats.

    Come to think of it, is it really even worth aspiring to become WDC now, after F1 has shot itself in the foot so frequently and comprehensively? And next year F1 threatens even greater boredom (groans) if cars end up maintaining their grid positions from start to finish without even the paltry overtaking opportunities currently afforded by refuelling stops. Maybe revelations of even bigger scandals will become necessary to stop petrolheads croaking out of boredom.

    1. Baktru says:

      Without the opportunities to overtake in the pitlane, one would hope that overtaking on the track would actually be more common. After all, the strategies around getting a better pitstop strategy will lose importance. And, refuelling may be banned but changing tires is not. So there will still be pit overtaking. Though with the advantage of a light not yet refuelled car disappearing, the dynamic will be completely different.

      1. MartinWR says:

        It’s a nice thought, I agree, but drivers have been giving it absolutely all they’ve got for some years now, and overtaking is still as near impossible as makes no difference. Regrettably, all the wishful thinking in the world won’t cure this problem. The 2009 rule changes completely failed to increase overtaking. Nothing but the elimination of aero, turning these upside-down aeroplanes into cars again, is going to change things. But that isn’t going to happen.

        The only obvious way forward is to dramatically reduce down-force, and increase mechanical grip with bigger (slick) tyres and wider track, and keep going in that direction until a useful compromise is reached. More power would be good too. Unfortunately any movement in that direction will inevitably slow down F1 cars to the point they are slower than cars in lesser formulas, even though still demanding greater skills of their pilots. Clearly that wouldn’t do. F1 not only needs to be the pinnacle of motor sport, but it needs be seen as such by being visibly the fastest formula.

        So F1 is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Over the years aero technology has gradually, imperceptibly, squeezed the fun out of Grand Prix. And if you don’t believe that, take a look at some F1 videos from a couple of decades back. Believe or not, the drivers actually diced with each other occcasionally! It was actually fun, once in a while. A bit like the dicing that still goes on in many of the lesser formulas, not to mention the BTCC.

      2. Baktru says:

        BTCC is a whole other beast though. Open wheel racers, like F1 cars, are quite fragile too. Just a slight nudge can easily be enough to cause damage that at the least means an extra stop in the pitlane. Touring Cars, DTM cars, etc. can handle some bumps a lot more easily. If the cars are so easily damaged, it is only normal that one will only try overtaking if it’s pretty certain it can be done.

  16. jeremy says:

    With reports of Flav out of the mix prior to the WMSC hearing, will it have a similar effect to Ron stepping down and avoiding the hearing all together? Surely the case is open and shut from the evidence leaked and the immunity offered to both Pat and NPJ.

    It seems Renault have relinquished their spot on the grid and the new “14th position” will see the continuation of the Hinwil based squad.

    If Flav steps away and there is no one to be heard, can Renault still be punished and fined if they exit?

    1. Werewolf says:

      If Briatore jumps (receives gravitorial assistance) and Symonds and Piquet have immunity, there are no individuals left to punish (and Mosley would have won any vendetta). Piquet is unemployable, so has punished himself, and Symonds may become untenable at Renault.

      A fine will suffice for the sake of visible justice and it will then be for Renault to decide whether or not to continue with a new team principle. Someone mentioned Prost’s name? Successful driver, less so in team management …

  17. Mario says:

    It is incredibly busy out there right now, I can hardly manage to keep up reading news.

    Do I understand it right? The people who just bought BMW team also just missed on securing a slot on the grid..? They have a team with nowhere to race their cars. So they have to relay on either Renault being thrown out or the 14th place being awarded to them. Are they unfortunate or do they know something no one else knows?

    Quick thought on Briatore: ouch! but you only get what you deserve.

    Quick thought on Robert Kubica: he has to make right move, if he gets another useless car he is pretty much out of it for many years to come.

  18. Renn Sport says:

    BMW are bunch of blithering idiots. They have really messed this up for whats left of the team.

    How could they sell a team that doesn’t even know if there will be spot for it in 2010??

    How much would a investor pay for that? At least Honda did its best to secure the team with the Brawn set up.

  19. Ben says:

    All this business of immunities being bandied about does seem to suggest there’s been one target all along. I can’t believe I’m actually starting to feel sorry for Flavio Briatore…

  20. Amritraj says:

    Hi James,

    I have been trying to source a book on the business side of F1. Most of them, which seem to have quality content, are expensive(in excess of 150 to 200 euros).

    Could you kindly suggest any material that you think is a good insight on the business of Formula 1 ?

    This is a request to every contributor on the blog as well.

    Thanks.

    1. Amritraj says:

      In continuation to the previous post; your inputs can help the decision to invest in somegthing worthwhile. Thanks.

    2. James Allen says:

      Formula Money is one of the few titles which goes into this. It has plenty of data in it, but not descriptions of how deals are done

      1. Amritraj says:

        Thanks James. I am aware of this book (through the ITV website). As you have mentioned, it deals completely with the financial performance of Formula 1, and not with the overveiw of the business of F1, teams, driver, tracks, processes of deal-making, ROI for sponsor etc. I am looking for something which can share a holistic overview of the sport.

      2. James Allen says:

        I’m not aware of such a book, perhaps some of the readers might be?

  21. Silverstoned says:

    “It also suggests that Pat Symonds has been offered immunity from prosecution if he drops Flavio Briatore in it. ”
    If it wasn’t so serious for F1 this would be the comedy of the century.
    On the other hand Renault and ING might be reading about Alonso going to Ferrari and wondering what they will be stonking up their cash for post Alonso. A swift uncomplicated exit like a ban may suit them very well [just a thought]

  22. Jeremy says:

    James,

    What engines would the ex-BMW team use?

    Will they inherit the existing engines and call them Megatron again!

    1. James Allen says:

      Cool idea! Not sure, Ferrari has spare capacity and Sauber is close to them

  23. bonnie b says:

    James,

    DO NOT BE SURPRISED IF MCLAREN BUID THEIR OWN
    F1 ENGINES, BECAUSE THE MCLAREN MP4-12c ROAD
    CAR ENGINE IS DESIGN BY MCLAREN ITSELF. SO IF
    NORBERT WANT TO TAKE HIS TOYS AND LEAVE SO
    BE IT!

    1. MartinWR says:

      With the greatest respect, shouting is generally regarded as bad form.

  24. onyx says:

    If you think Qadbak have bought BMW SAUBER not to race in F1 think again.In the murky world of F1 and the FIA they will have been guaranteed a slot for 2010.Isnt it true that USF1 just have a disused Nascar base, a couple of offices and a PC?!

  25. piotr says:

    The announcement issued this morning about Quadback/BMW deal has been removed from BMW Sauber’s official website. Dunno if that may have anything to do with the Lotus FIA decission but it looks strange..?

  26. Lee Gilbert says:

    I would rather have 28 cars ad 14 teams on the grid than the idea of allowing some teams to race 3 cars!!!!!

  27. john g says:

    so what exactly does this mean for the sauber team? they are now owned by a consortium of investors whose interest in racing is unknown, and they don’t have an entry into next years championship.

    a group that bought a team with no engines, for probably close to $60m, who did not have an guaranteed place on the grid, and who are not entitled to the significant amount of monies owed BMW, had they signed the concorde agreement, do not fill me with confidence for the future of the Hinwil guys, given brawn bought honda for a pound with a guaranteed entry onto the grid and a deal with mercedes… you can’t help but feel that the top BMW board simply don’t understand F1 and royally screwed this whole thing up.

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