FERNANDAS IN HOT WATER? Caterham's previous owner, Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, (inset) might face legal action for not settling the team's sale earlier in 2014. Image: AFP / Andrew Yates
LONDON, England - The struggling Caterham Formula 1 team seemed close to meltdown on Wednesday (Oct 22) with the new management threatening to walk away while accusing founder Tony Fernandes of never completing a formal transfer of ownership.
A team statement said all options were being explored and indicated that legal action would be taken against Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes, who is also chairman of struggling English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers and runs AirAsia.
Fernandes was not immediately available for comment.
OBLIGATIONS NOT MET
Caterham announced in July 2014 that a mystery group of Middle Eastern and Swiss investors had bought the team that entered the sport in 2010. On Wednesday the team said that since the date of the sale agreement "the seller has refused to comply with its legal obligations to transfer shares to the buyer”.
It identified the 'seller' as Caterham Enterprises Ltd and Caterham UK Ltd with Sheikh Mohamed Nasarudin and shareholders Fernandes and Kamarudin Bin Meranun. The buyer was Engavest SA.
"The buyer has been left in the invidious position of funding the team without having legal title to the team it bought," the team statement said. "This is in total contradiction to the seller's media release of October 3 2014 which stated that Fernandes and his Caterham Group no longer had any connection with the Caterham F1 Team."
Wednesday's statement followed a fraught week for the team, which is running last in the championship and has yet to score a point, as Caterham Sports Limited was put under administration last Friday (Oct 17).
CARS ON LOCK-DOWN
On Tuesday (Oct 21) joint administrator Finbarr O'Connell told Reuters that the race cars, due to be flown to Texas for the 2014 US F1 GP, would not be allowed out of the factory without his permission.
"My legal advice is that I own the cars and won't be allowing the cars out of the factory until I reach an acceptable agreement (with the team)," he said. Bailiffs had already seized various items from the factory earlier in the month.
CSL employed the team's staff before the change of ownership was announced and were effectively responsible for making the cars, dealing with suppliers and running the factory at Leafield in central England. The situation was complicated by the entry rights to the championship being held by 1Malaysian Racing Team (1MRT).
The new 'owners' had argued that the company was completely separate to CSL.
'CLAIMS AGAINST ALL PARTIES'
Wednesday's (Oct 22) statement said CSL going into administration “had devastating effects on the F1 Team's activities" and statements made by the administrators had been "severely detrimental". "After three months of operating the Caterham F1 Team in good faith, the buyer is now forced to explore all its options, including withdrawal of its management team," the statement concluded.
"Lawyers have been instructed by the buyer to bring all necessary claims against all parties, including Fernandes, who, as an owner, will run the F1 operation."
The team's drivers are Japan's Kamui Kobayashi and Sweden's Marcus Ericsson.Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 F1 season – fresh reports every day.