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Donington's missing millions

NEWS STORY
30/10/2009

Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt was surprised to say the least when he read on Wednesday that Donington's beleaguered boss Simon Gillett had allegedly transferred £12m to the account of Formula One Administration (FOA) in a last ditch bid to retain the circuit's right to host the British GP.

Sylt's surprise wasn't down to the fact that it would keep Donington in the race to host the British GP, but rather because it seemed like a monumentally crazy thing to do. By then the world knew that Gillett did not have the funds to stage the race, due to the very public failure of his bond issue, so the last thing you would expect him to do is transfer money to FOA which the company may then keep in the event of him failing to honour his obligation of hosting the British GP. After all, getting together the £12m for the deposit was one thing but finding the £91.4m to get the circuit up to F1 standards was the real sticking point for Gillett.

To make matters even murkier, the original newspaper report about the alleged £12m transfer claimed that it may have taken place after the banks had closed and so probably missed the deadline set by FOA's boss Bernie Ecclestone. So if it wasn't strange enough that Gillett allegedly transferred this money to FOA knowing full well that the company might keep it since he didn't have enough money to host the race, it also seems he transferred the money knowing full well that it may be in vein due to missing the deadline. Sylt thought this sounded too unlikely even for Gillett and so he contacted Ecclestone to see if the mysterious £12m was ever received.

Sylt forwarded the newspaper report to Ecclestone and asked him whether it was correct "that Donington Ventures Leisure has transferred £12m to the F1 Group in connection with the 2010 British GP." Ecclestone's reply says it all: "regretfully the funds did not arrive therefore the termination notice came into effect." It may leave fans asking why Gillett was given the race contract when he couldn't even raise the money to pay for the deposit. That is one question which Ecclestone may struggle to answer.

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