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Manor rejected 22m bid

NEWS STORY
19/02/2017

Tavo Hellmund has revealed that his 22m ($27m) bid for the Manor F1 team was rejected.

While Manor managed a Houdini-like escape at the end of 2014, having been, along with Caterham, essentially declared dead and buried, it doesn't appear that Lady Luck will look down on the Banbury-based outfit for a second time.

Tavo Hellmund, the driving force behind the creation of the Circuit of the Americas and returning F1 to the United States and Mexico, has revealed that his attempt to purchase the team was rejected.

Indeed, the American, a lifelong friend of Bernie Ecclestone, admits that he had been attempting to buy the team for eighteen months.

"At one point we had agreed to terms," he told the Austin American Statesman.

Hellmund's 'consortium' included New York financier Jim Carney and a number of other investors from Florida, Canada and Mexico - though not Carlos Slim insists Hellmund - and the father of a certain world champion.

"They all had their different reasons for wanting to invest," he says. "The first go-round, we were even going to involve Anthony Hamilton, Lewis' dad.

"We made two stabs at it," he reveals. "We offered 22 million pounds a year and one-half ago."

However, he was not alone in eyeing up the potential of the team that started out as Virgin Racing in 2010, enticed by (subsequently abandoned) rules that offered a more level playing field; other potential buyers included Indonesian Ricardo Gelael, Ron Dennis and a "group of Asian investors". Indeed, it is claimed representatives from Andretti Autosport visited the team's Banbury HQ.

Hellmund claims that what made the team attractive was its small (in F1 terms) workforce and the fact that it was relatively free of sponsorship commitments, the American insisting that $20m in sponsorship a year would see the investors break even.

Furthermore, eyeing the change in ownership of the sport, Hellmund and his co-investors believed it was not impossible that F1 might one day adopt a franchise system thereby increasing the value of the team (and its slot) dramatically.

Furthermore, Hellmund was looking to partner with one of the manufacturers in terms of offering seats to up and coming drivers.

"We were looking to form a partnership with one of the big manufacturers," he admits, "Mercedes or Honda. We had conversations with both. That way you can get motors - discounted motors - and get a driver. It's almost like being a Triple-A (baseball) team."

With his consortium also eyeing a $5m tax credit available from the British government for small technology firms, the other major incentive was a slice of the prize pot.

However, with the addition of Haas to the F1 grid in 2016 - the American team scoring on its debut - and with prize money limited to the top ten point scoring teams, all was looking fine... until a soggy afternoon at Interlagos.

"They were starting to come to our terms, and then Brazil happened," says the American.

Ironically, Felipe Nasr, the man who scored the two points for Sauber that rainy afternoon, essentially sealing Manor's fate, would most likely have been a potential fit for the Banbury team under its new ownership.

Finishing outside the top ten in 2016 also compromised the $34m paid for finishing in the top ten two out of three years, for unless Manor managed to finish in the top ten in 2017 it would miss out and the cycle would start again. This situation was further complicated by the fact that as negotiations dragged on, and the team desperately short of funds, Manor would have had to field an updated 2016 car this season, further compromising its hopes of securing that vital top ten finish.

"We felt we had reached critical time in the development of the car for next year," says Hellmund.

"It's a shame those people are now out of work," he adds.

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