FORCE INDIA FORCED OUT?
The future of Force India has been thrown into doubt with the news that the team was put into administration on 27 July, after Sergio Pérez filed proceedings with the High Court in an attempt to fend off a winding-up petition from another creditor. Engine supplier Mercedes and title sponsor BWT supported him.
The team’s problems arise from the legal and financial difficulties of co-owner Vijay Mallya, who is fighting extradition to India on fraud charges, which he denies.
Pérez said he was asked to do this by “the team”, by which he means deputy team principal Bob Fernley and chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer, to safeguard its future. Mallya was refusing to sell other than at a price most investors believed to be unrealistic, and putting the team into administration formalises a specific legal process and puts the team’s future in the hands of the administrator rather than Mallya.
There are said to be a number of interested parties. One is Lawrence Stroll and two are American consortiums. One of the American bids involves Indycar team owner Michael Andretti and Pieter Rossi, father of Alexander Rossi, who had a brief F1 career. The other is said to be led by businessman Jeff Moorad, former boss of two American baseball teams, and now owner of a sports investment management company. Another main bid is said to be from Russian businessman Dmitry Mazepin, father of GP3 racer Nikita Mazepin, Force India’s development driver.
Energy drink company Rich Energy, said to be bankrolled by West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold, had a bid to rescue the team before they were put into administration, with a sponsorship deal worth £30m, rejected by the judge on the grounds that it did not offer sufficient finance to secure the viability of the team.
Administrators FRP Advisory say they are continuing to operate Force India as normal while they weigh up the bids. Mallya claims the holding company is the largest creditor, with debts of £159m. But as that is Mallya, it remains to be seen how FRP regards that.
The largest external creditor is Mercedes, with in the region of £10m owed. Further complications have emerged, as Renault, Mclaren and Williams have refused to agree any new owner being given a free right to change the team’s name, rights and prize money dues, without reassurances the new entity will not become in effect a Mercedes B team.
“THE LARGEST EXTERNAL CREDITOR IS MERCEDES, WITH IN THE REGION OF £10M OWED
Pérez’s high court proceedings have pushed Force India into administration