Group Lotus has moved to deny suggestions that it has ended its formal involvement in Formula 1, the sportscar firm revealing details of a “reshaped” arrangement with the Lotus F1 Team that has seen its owner Proton give the Enstone outfit a £30m loan.
In an astonishingly strongly-worded statement issued by the British-based manufacturer this evening hitting back at what it claims have been “mistruths” concerning both its F1 involvement going forward and the wider situation at the company, Group Lotus sought to clarify its relationship with Lotus F1 and Genii Capital following Gerard Lopez’s comments at the end of last week which revealed the sponsorship deal the two parties signed at the end of 2010 had been terminated along with the option for the car company to buy into the team.
Reproducing a mocked-up image that had earlier been published on the internet of its CEO Dany Bahar as ‘Comical Ali’ – the former Iraqi information minister whose eternally optimistic daily press briefings during the 2003 Iraq war made him a figure of fun around the world – to highlight the kind of coverage it was referring to, Group Lotus tackled the issue of its association with Lopez’s team under the heading “false rumour #4: Group Lotus is no longer involved in F1”.
The car company insisted that rather than having parted ways with the team that carries its name, the two parties had agreed on a revised relationship earlier this year which sees Group Lotus retain branding rights to the team until at least 2017 as well as title partner status. It also shed light on details of a £30m loan it says Proton gave Genii, which has seen the investment company put up “100% of the team’s assets” as security.
“Group Lotus’ branding and marketing rights and subsequent activities remain unaffected by the new agreement until at least 2017. Alongside continued branding and title partnership status, Group Lotus is also the exclusive master licensee for all Lotus F1 Team merchandise,” the Group Lotus statement read.
“The new agreement was reached following Group Lotus owners Proton providing team owners Genii with a £30m loan which is repayable within three years. In order to secure the loan Genii used 100% of the F1 team’s assets as collateral meaning that under the conditions of the loan agreement Proton have been given full title guarantee to all plant, machinery, show cars, computers, office and the Lotus F1 Team headquarters.”
Group Lotus added that Proton indeed retained “rights to purchase 10% of the F1 team”, while a further 10% share would be activated if the team defaulted on its loan obligations.
The takeover of underperforming Proton by Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom earlier this year had prompted speculation over what the future held for Group Lotus and while the car company’s statement admitted it “is going through a very difficult phase at the moment” it added that, amid an ongoing due diligence process by the new owner, there “continue to be positive discussions between Group Lotus senior management and senior management at DRB-HICOM” over the firm’s future.