Brought to you by John Myburgh
On Friday morning Caterham F1 team principal Manfredi Ravetto arrived in Suzuka to face the music.
Ravetto began by explaining, “The Leafield Technical Centre is host to a number of different companies”, but “the Formula One team has nothing to do with these other companies”.
It appears that Malaysian registered company 1malaysia Racing Team Sdn Bhd is the vital company to which the F1 racing license has been issued. However, there are a number of other companies which during the Fernandes days were all part of the Caterham Group, and it is these companies – essentially still Caterham F1 – who employ people, own assets such as machines and also have incurred liabilities.
What is unclear is the shareholding relationships between these companies and with 1MRT being a non-UK business, the trail at companies house is not easy to follow.
That said, it appears to have been Fernandes belief he was ‘selling’ the F1 team and all associated companies to the ‘new investors’. It is not unreasonable that this would be a ‘lock stock and barrel’ sale, with assets and liabilities lumped in together.
Fernandes was clear he wanted out, and whether his legal team failed to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and this is a mess of his own legal team’s making, will become apparent in time.
As mouthpiece of the ‘new investors’ Ravetto (who incidentally left the board three days after Kolles joined) is claiming the writs awarded in the English High Court and the subsequent assets seized are nothing to do with 1MRT, and in effect the current racing entity, they are against Caterham Sports Ltd.
Interestingly, Manfredi Ravetto was a director of Caterham Sports Ltd until his resignation papers were filed with Companies House on 10th July 2014. The day before Mr. Romulus Kolles was appointed as director, although his residency is not UK or EU based. It is listed as being in the tax haven of Monaco.
Even if 1MRT own Caterham Sports Ltd, and the latter have £10m of debt, 1MRT under UK company law are most likely not liable for this debt. This is why Ravetto is emphasising the difference between the companies and therefore identifying where the High Court writs have been targeted.
What Manfredi is failing to inform the world, is that 1MRT are using the staff and machinery owned by Caterham Sports Ltd to produce the current car and a future car project. Whether Caterham Sports Ltd is owned by 1MRT as part of the sale is irrelevant. Caterham Sports Ltd is controlled by Kolles and his cronies. Whether Kolles is a director or not is irrelevant. Directors are often just puppets of and given legal paper titles by the shareholders.
If the new owners have transferred the factory assets from Caterham Sports Ltd to 1MRT, leaving just the liabilities, then the immunity of 1MRT from the liabilities of subsidiary Caterham Sports Ltd can be challenged.
Manfredi does now accept, “It is absolutely true that bailiffs have been in Leafield. What is also true is that the day before yesterday[Wednesday], when they were in Leafield, not a single screwdriver was removed.
“Our solicitors got all the paperwork done in order to prove that it is a matter of totally different companies,” states Ravetto. “We managed to explain the bailiffs that we had nothing to do with the claims. Our opposition was successful and – no additional parts or equipment have been removed. I say additional – additional to what was previously removed.
The things that were previously removed were just memorabilia or something, not belonging to the Formula One team.
Obviously this [Sheriff’s notice] is not providing any picture, evidence, or a detailed breakdown of seized assets.
A steering wheel from 2010? You could consider it a vital part, but I consider it as memorabilia. Does [the Sheriff report] specifically say from which year it was or that it’s a 2014 steering wheel?
The test car of 2013 – what does this mean? You should ask the sheriff.
I know some carbon components have been seized, but these carbon components are still considered by me to be memorabilia. Someone could argue [that point], but they were not parts we were going to put on the car this year, or here in Japan.”
Meantime The Bailiff’s Office issued a tweet, “We confirm a full inventory is being prepared of the seized and removed goods held in secure storage #F1.” Pictures of items seized have been posted too. TJ13 has been shown a list of these items that were up for auction, 93 lines, ranging from a Tig welder, 20 sets of F1 wheels and tyres (Pirelli), TVs and much much more! (See appendix).
The Bailiff’s Office have put out a holding statement on Friday stating, “However, developments are fast moving and at this stage it is unclear whether the goods will now be auctioned. We will update this page with the details as they become available”.
It appears a winding up petition has been lodged against Caterham Sports Ltd with a hearing scheduled on 11th November 2014 at Leeds County Court (UK) as it was posted in the London Gazette on on 23rd September 2014.
The High Court Enforcement Officers are now awaiting the outcome of this hearing before selling off the assets seized. This is because other creditors may as yet be unrepresented under the current seizure writs but all creditors will be represented fully at the hearing dated 11th November.
The problem for all creditors a number of the the prized assets have been shipped out of the UK, and even though there is a three week break between the trips to Russia and Austin, TJ13 has been informed Caterham will not return there race cars/equipment to the UK prior to the winding up hearing in November.
So is this merely a dispute over what was bought and what was intended to be part of a sale and who is responsible for millions of debt? That may be the case, but it also may well be a diversionary tactic which continues to obscure questions over the ‘new investors’.
Manfredi again asserts the kind of people who have bought 1MRT. “It is a club of high net worth individual investors who want to protect their privacy. They are not looking for any kind of visibility; they are just interested in making the best out of their investment.”
I can’t [name them] and it’s actually not my business to know”, reveals Ravetto. “My only contact is through their representative and advisor, who is Colin Kolles.”
And here we begin the cut to the chase. Only Colin Kolles knows who these people are, and he isn’t telling.
Ravetto also reveals what is allegedly precious to a ‘new investors’. “Our entry is our main asset. We will do everything that is needed to protect it.
The main guarantee I can give is highlighting once more the importance of defending and keeping an entry. To keep an entry you need to have two cars on the grid, and this is what we are going to do.”
It is the permission to race in F1, owned by 1MRT which is said to be particularly precious and there are 6 weeks to survive to the end of the season, with this permission intact.
If we cast our minds back to earlier in the year when all the talk was of new F1 entrants from Haas and Forza Rossa (A Romanian backed entrant fronted by Kolles).
One of the last pieces of information forthcoming on the Romanian entry was by Adam Cooper, June 2nd. He wrote, “The FIA is understood to have finally granted an entry to the Romanian-backed FRR F1 Team project, although no official announcement has been forthcoming”.
Cooper reveals, “FRR is believed to still be aiming for next year, despite the entry delay making life a lot tougher than it would be had it been granted alongside that of Haas on April 11.
However, FRR has a lot more elements in place compared to Haas. It is planning to use a Renault power unit, while the car will be built and run by a team put together by former Force India and HRT boss Colin Kolles at his base near Munich”.
Even more interestingly, Adam reveals the people behind this F1 bid include, “front man for the project is Ion Bazac, a qualified doctor and former Romanian health minister. The 45-year-old has a number of business interests and is the country’s Ferrari importer, under the name Forza Rossa.
Bazac is also the president a consortium of private and state funded investors whose motive is to promote the interests of Romania, and who have the support of the government. Indeed, the Romanian sports minister met with the FIA early in the bid process”.
So as TJ13 has been asserting for sometime, if these people are the ones actually behind the Caterham buyout, why keep their identity secret?
Clearly, Fernandes believes the sale of Caterham included its debts. This indeed may actually be the case and a fairly tight legal agreement may be in place. However, a good legal tussle is guaranteed to take many months if not years, by which time much water may have passed under the bridge and creditors given up hope of receiving a penny.
Anyway, if there is a dispute over the title to 1MRT, which Fernandes may raise should he be left carrying the baby and the bathwater, the FIA would in all probability revoke the racing license.
This does not serve the purposes of the Kolles crew according to what Manfredi said is precious to the investors, to protect the license to race. Whether to utilise for FF1 or to sell.
However, if as Adam Cooper revealed in June, FRR’s entry is agreed for 2015, they don’t really need the ‘precious’ document Ravetto has been told to reveal as of vital importance.
The benefit Kolles and his cronies are in fact getting at present is from current revenues from the pay drivers funding the team. Much of the flyaway costs for the final races will have been dealt with some weeks ago, and a significant part of this pay per driver funding is Part of this funding is being spent on R&D and development of a 2015 car, much of which is being done in Germany.
TJ13 has learned that the development for the 2015 Caterham car is well advanced. The new car currently has a Ferrari/Williams style nose, suspension pickup mounts are now inline/horizontal like everyone else and side pods have a lot of undercut thus bringing a lot more floor into play. Of course this is still very much in development so the final looks may change but we do know that the aero of the new car is several points better than this year’s car already.
So would Kolles be within his rights to use Caterham to pay for and develop his FF1 programme. Legally maybe, but the staff in Leafield are being lied to again and again, and some have worked out in fact what is indeed going on.
If the investors were serious about Caterham long term, the debt would have been dealt with by now, there’s been plenty of time. The Bailiff’s were promised payment on Monday as they tweeted, “We’re hoping
#CaterhamF1 make payment on Monday so the creditors can get paid what they’re owed and we can release seized goods”. No payment had been recognised by 15:07 GMT today.
The refusal to deal with Caterham F1 team’s debts increases the likelyhood that Caterham is being used as a mule for other purposes.
The Caterham legacy may well morf into the FF1 project in 2015, but that is no consolation for the staff who will soon be redundant, and have been consistently told the new owners are doing their best.
Whatever the outcome of the Caterham mess, TJ13 has been asserting that Kolles stands to benefit hugely from running Caterham just to the end of the season, as the funds being spent to design a possible FF1 car will be gone once Abu Dhabi is over.