Why administration might be Force India's saving grace
It’s been reported that Sergio Perez and his manager, Julian Jakobi, are behind an application for administrators to be appointed to the Force India Formula 1 team over unpaid debts.
Documents released on Wednesday show a winding up application was submitted against the team, though details on who it was issued by were kept secret.
However a report by RaceFans.net suggests a Guernsey-based company by the name of Brockstone Limited made the application. According to the report, both Perez and his manager have ties to the company.
Perez and/or his sponsors are owed £3 million ($4m) by the team, therefore this may be the driving factor behind the winding up order which is also reportedly supported by Daimler/Mercedes, which is owed around £9m in unpaid engine fees, and title sponsor BWT which has loaned the team money.
Why would Perez instigate this?
This could simply be an attempt to recover debts. Administrators are appointed, assets are sold off and debts cleared – although that is rarely the case given debts are often greater than recoverable assets.
However it’s likely that there is more to this than meets the eye. The winding up order has come during the final race weekend before the summer shutdown, therefore limiting disruption to the team.
Although team co-owner Vijay Mallya has denied the team is for sale, the Indian businessman is in need of cash given his own debts owed to the Indian government, which need to be paid if he’s to avoid jail – though his debts run into several hundreds of millions.
Despite what Mallya says, the team is for sale and he has been holding out for an offer far greater than what the team is likely worth. Offers have been received and all have been rebuffed for being too low.
This may be an attempt by Perez, Mercedes and BWT – and quite possibly Liberty Media who have also loaned Force India money – to secure the future of the team, as it will force Mallya’s hand. He will have no option but to sell now that administrators have been appointed.
If a sale can be agreed quickly – which is likely given several interested buyers are lined up – then the team can continue operating as normal, debts will be paid or at least re-financed and the team will receive much needed investment, something chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer said was “imminent”, suggesting he knew about the winding up order in advance and the true reason behind it.
Of those buyers, a handful are serious with Michael Andretti, billionaire Dmitry Mazepin – father of Force India junior driver Nikita Mazepin – Tavo Hellmund and a group of US-based investors all rumoured to have made offers. Lance Stroll's father Lawrence is also believed to have made an offer, though Motorsport Week understands this wasn't an offer to buy the team, but an offer to purchase equity in exchange for handing Lance a race seat.
The whole affair is unlikely to end in Force India's demise, unlike Caterham and co which had very little to offer any prospective buyer given their lowly championship standing at the time, whereas Force India is a team that achieves a lot with very little and at the right price, will be bought up quickly.