Exclusive - Midlands Alex Shnaider on Spyker's future 17 Aug 2007
Over the past three seasons, one team on the grid has undergone unrivalled changes. Spyker - formerly Midland, and before that Jordan - has endured three incarnations since 2005, and now its looking likely that the Dutch squad may change hands again.
Former owner and Midland Chairman, Alex Shnaider, still has an interest in the team, due to monies owing from the sale. He spoke exclusively to Formula1.com about Spykers current situation and what he feels the future might hold
Q: It has been a year since you sold the Midland team to Spyker. What is the state of affairs from your perspective?
Alex Shnaider: This is certainly shaping up as the most exciting season in recent memory. The four-way battle for the drivers title, the on- and off-track battles between Ferrari and McLaren, and the smaller battles down the field have all been very entertaining from a fan's perspective. Of course, it would have been more enjoyable for me if the Spyker team was higher up the grid, but I know from experience that Formula One is one of the most competitive environments in the world, so I can understand the huge challenge they are facing. Still, overall, it has been a fascinating season and that has to be good for the sport as a whole.
Q: Spyker still owes you a substantial amount of the purchase price, with the team itself as security on that debt. Does that mean that you still have a foot in Formula One racing?
AS: We have a stake in the team, but not an active role in any aspect of its operations. It is similar to a bank mortgage on a home - the bank does not choose the furniture or the colour of the wallpaper and paint, but it does have an overriding interest in the property, and as such, must be paid as agreed. We agreed to allow Spyker to defer part of the payment under certain terms and conditions since we judged that to be in the best interests of the team and of Midland. But even though I may only have a toe in F1, I remain a very interested onlooker.
Q: How does the current uncertainty over Spykers future ownership affect the deal?
AS: I dont think it affects us at all. Again, using the home mortgage analogy, the homeowner may lose his job, he may have arguments with his partner or even get divorced, but none of this is the bank's concern so long as the mortgage gets paid. I have my opinions regarding the way Spyker have gone about certain things, some of which are good, some of which I may have done differently. The day-to-day running of the team is up to them, but at the end of the day, there are certain obligations which must be met. Whether or not Spyker is in some turmoil, we expect the deal to be executed as agreed, and we will try to help them along if requested.
Q: Looking at Spykers current situation, some might conclude the team has diminished in value over the last year. Does that affect your position?
AS: First of all, I disagree with your assertion that the team has lost value. Regardless of where it sits on the grid, I still believe it has made performance gains. I just think the lack of success this season simply comes down to other teams progressing faster. I won't go into detail about the possible reasons for this but certain teams, arguably, are not constructing their own chassis. Besides, the team is very close to Honda and Toro Rosso in the championship, so there is the possibility of moving up. We would all like to see better results for Spyker and for those results to come faster, but this is a very difficult proposition when you are a small, independent team challenging the top automotive manufacturers in the world. I understand that Spyker has made some developments and we all look forward to seeing these improvements translated into championship points. In any case, the teams as franchises are increasing in value. There are only 12 licenses available, and as we get closer to 2008, the rule changes will make the sport more economically viable as a commercial prospect, by allowing smaller teams to challenge the manufacturers with customer cars. Even if I am wrong in my analysis, our position is not affected.
Q: So, you are still a stakeholder in a Formula One team, but would you ever want to come back?
AS: I sold my interest in the team because I judged that it was in the best interests of all concerned, and I have no regrets about doing so. That said, Midland is a secured creditor. We have rescued the team in the past and we are capable of doing it again, if necessary. Not that it really matters, though, because we expect Spyker to fulfill their obligations.
Q: What comes next as far as your interests in the Spyker team are concerned?
AS: Our first priority has always been to see the team passed to a safe pair of hands - an owner with a commercial brand to be promoted to the public, a person or company with the vision and resources to develop the potential within the team. I believe that Spyker or the Mol consortium will need to bring in a partner to achieve this, or alternatively, they will need to sell the team outright. I think our financial interest will be finally resolved, and I look forward to strolling the paddock with even more ease in the future. If we are forced to take the team back, then we will fund it in the short term while also looking for the kind of commercial partner I just described. Remember that the heart and soul of this team goes back to the Eddie Jordan days and lives on in hard-working, experienced guys like Andy Stevenson, guys who have been there from the very start and built that team into a scrappy challenger. The fundamentals are all there - its a team that has tasted success in the past and can regain it with the right owner.
Q: You visited the Montreal paddock, free of the burden of team ownership. Are you happy to have left that sort of aggravation behind you?
AS: Owning a Formula One team - any Formula One team - can be a very stressful exercise. Just ask any team owner who has his personal money invested in the team! When you are spending millions and not seeing results week after week, month after month, it can become extremely frustrating. But there were also things I enjoyed about owning the team, like when we would jump into Q2 during qualifying, or challenge the midfield for points. If I didn't enjoy that kind of intensity, I wouldn't have bought the team in the first place, or wrestled so much with the idea of selling it.