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For the past few years the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC), the owner of Silverstone, has been on the hunt to get funding for the redevelopment of the circuit to bring it up to the standard of other Grand Prix venues around the world. This search for an investor became all the more pressing at the end of 2009 when Silverstone signed a 17 year contract to host the British GP. It got loans to fund construction of a £27m pit and paddock complex which opened last year but it is understood to need at least £100m more to complete a masterplan which includes the construction of a hotel. To raise the money the BRDC's directors decided to sell a lease to the 850 acres of land on the Silverstone site but this plan stalled with the Club announcing in May that its talks with a preferred investor had come to nothing. It has now changed its tactic and the BRDC says it is prepared to sell the entire circuit itself.
The news came to light late last week in a small article buried in the post-British GP coverage of a weekly UK motorsport magazine. Interestingly, despite apparently being widely read in the motorsport industry, the article does not seem to have been covered anywhere, even on the website of the publication which reported it. Nevertheless, the news in it is perfectly legitimate. It states that getting Silverstone's investment partner "would likely involve the sale of equity in the circuit and [BRDC chairman Stuart] Rolt would not rule out anything up to and including the sale of 100 per cent of Silverstone Holdings," the immediate parent company of the track.
As with the BRDC's hunt for a new leaseholder of the land, the new investor must guarantee Silverstone's future as a motorsport venue. "We are looking for someone who is ready to spend over £100m in a 25-year time period," said Rolt. He added that "they won't do that unless they are given some serious security and ability to recover their investment. We are looking for someone who is going to come in and look after the whole circuit."
Being able to buy Silverstone itself will surely appeal to more investors than just taking on a lease of the land but it is sure to raise big questions in the motorsport community and beyond. As Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt revealed, the BRDC's preferred investor was understood to be a Qatari investment fund and, in itself, that is believed to have caused concern from some Club members.
As Pitpass has also reported, Richard Branson is thought to be involved with a group which is interested in investing in Silverstone and although he may be more a more palatable owner than a foreign group, it remains to be seen whether it will go his way. If Silverstone does get sold then there are many in motorsport who will want to ensure that it stays in British hands.
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