British GP lease up for grabs 13 Mar 2003
Troubled Octagon Motorsports has decided to sell its lease on the British Grand Prix as it seeks to withdraw from its numerous investments in British motorsport.
Octagon owns four of the country's major circuits: Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Oulton Park and Cadwell Park, having acquired for £120m in 1999 the assets of the late John Foulston's Brands Hatch Leisure from his daughter Nicola.
Octagon's parent company is Interpublic, the giant US advertising group which has decided it is time to cut its losses.
Independent advisers have recently urged Interpublic to initiate exit strategies from its motorsport interests, with an inevitable knock-on effect for the British Grand Prix.
Two years ago Octagon signed a 15-year lease on the race with the British Racing Drivers' Club, the owner of Silverstone Circuit, though this deal was cannily done with Interpublic itself rather than just with the Octagon subsidiary, according to BRDC member Howden Ganley, the former Formula One racer.
This guarantees Octagon's obligations come what may, and represents the safeguard to the future of the British Grand Prix if Octagon is unable to attract a buyer for the lease.
Bernie Ecclestone has consistently denied that he is interested in buying the British Grand Prix, one of the few races that he has not controlled until recent years, but said recently that provided any new buyer of the lease honours the terms of the contract he would have no problem with any sale.