Team owners at war over Prost remains

An ugly verbal battle has broken out over the sale of the remains of Prost Grand Prix, with team principals Tom Walkinshaw (Arrows) and Paul Stoddart (Minardi) exchanging heated words. Prost went into liquidation at the end of last year and were...

An ugly verbal battle has broken out over the sale of the remains of Prost Grand Prix, with team principals Tom Walkinshaw (Arrows) and Paul Stoddart (Minardi) exchanging heated words. Prost went into liquidation at the end of last year and were declared bankrupt in January; since then there have been rumours of a buyout but now English businessman Charles Nickerson has apparently bought the team with the backing of Walkinshaw.

It has come to light that Stoddart had previously put in a bid for Prost but was unsuccessful and now the two bosses have come to loggerheads over the transaction.

Walkinshaw stated today that Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) are involved in a buyout of the now defunct French team: "TWR is supporting a group of people who have bought the assets of Prost," he said. "TWR will help them with engineering to get it up and running, obviously the season is here and they need help to do it so that's what we're doing to support them. We aim to make it happen definitely by Brazil (GP on March 31), maybe by Malaysia (March 17), I don't know."

Paul Stoddart has taken offense over the deal and believes Walkinshaw is pushing the boundaries of the Concorde Agreement, the highly secret rules of F1 terms and conditions. "I think what Tom Walkinshaw has done, and I've had five legal opinions, three in the UK and two in France to say what he has done is outside the governing document of Formula one, the Concorde Agreement," Stoddart said. "As far as I am concerned, liquidation is virtue of its word, it's the final state, and there's only one way you can pull something out of liquidation under any law and that is to simply pay all the creditors."

Stoddart went on to say that somewhere in the region of 30 to 60 million US dollars had been offered for Prost but the deal had been rejected. "We now have an offer that is less than 10 percent of the lowest of those offers that seems to have been accepted," he said. The Australian met with Walkinshaw on Thursday and told him he was prevented by the Concorde Agreement from buying out Prost because the deadline was past, but had a rude awakening shortly after: "And to my amazement, I was woken at one o'clock this morning to be told he has actually done it," said Stoddart.

"It's wrong for Formula One, it's wrong for the creditors, it's wrong for the teams. I valued my entry at 25-30 million US dollars, if this goes ahead that's just been wiped out and you've probably taken 300 million dollars off this pit lane today. It is going to court, probably before Malaysia (GP) and I will be seeking an injunction to stop this."

Walkinshaw protests his innocence and seems bewildered as to why Stoddart is so annoyed. "I would like to know why Paul Stoddart is making these comments," he said, "because there were two bidders for the team assets of Prost, one a consortium where we have been asked to support with engineering and the other bidder was Paul Stoddart, he didn't bid enough. It's as simple as that, there were two bidders, including him, he was one. The assets that have been put up I'm not sure if they were the same ones that we put up before and no-one here knows anything either. He's very disappointed that he lost the bid because he didn't bid enough and that should be the end of the story."

Stoddart remains unrepentant, saying F1 has had enough "rubbish" lately: "Recently, we have seen BAR buy Tyrrell, Jaguar take over Stewart, we've seen Renault take over Benetton and I bought Minardi ... we've had enough close calls lately, it's bad enough Prost went down and we don't need this rubbish," he said.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Paul Stoddart , Tom Walkinshaw
Teams Benetton , Minardi