Sept. 1: Liquor and airline tycoon Vijay Mallya is set to pick up a 50 per cent stake in Formula One team Spyker, becoming the first Indian to own a part of an F1 racing outfit.
The businessman with a passion for cars, yachts and thoroughbreds has teamed up with Spyker director Michiel Mol to make a 90-million euros (Rs 504 crore) bid for the cash-strapped team.
“We did the deal at 2 in the morning. All big deals are done at night,” Mallya said.
“This offer has been accepted by the board of Spyker Cars NV and exclusivity has been granted to the consortium Orange India Holdings Sarl to proceed with due diligence... to achieve completion within 30 days,” the partners said in a joint statement.
“I’ll try my best to have India somewhere in the (new) name” of the F1 side, Mallya told reporters.
Asked if he might recruit an Indian driver, perhaps Narain Karthikeyan, he replied: “We would love to have an Indian driver but… we have to arrive at a consensus.”
Strongwind, the Mol family’s investment arm, and Mallya-owned Watson Limited are making the offer. Mol will own the other half of the company.
The Indian tycoon said he could have four directors on the company’s board while the Mol family could have three representatives. Mallya will be the chairman and managing director of Orange India.
“Now that we have acquired an F1 team, I would love to see F1 coming to India sooner than later, maybe 2009 or by 2010,” said Mallya, gung-ho over his latest deal that caps a frenetic year of acquisitions, including Scotch whisky maker Whyte and Mackay, French sparkling-wine producer Bouvet-Ladubay and no-frills airline Air Deccan.
He was modest about the new team’s prospects next season. “I don’t expect something spectacular in 2008, the aim would be to collect championship points.”
Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines is the sponsor of the Panasonic Toyota F1 team, and he had sponsored the Benetton team in 1996-1997. He is investing in the Spyker team in his personal capacity, and Kingfisher Airlines is expected to continue to sponsor the Panasonic Toyota team.
Mallya, an MP, is the chairman of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India and the Motor Sport Association of India.