'Baby oligarch' loses his trademark rights at troubled TVR

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The Independent Online

Russian tycoon Nikolai Smolensky has been stripped of the intellectual property for the TVR sports car company he owns.

On Friday, administrators acting for TVR's production arm, which went into administration over Christmas, put the Blackpool-based subsidiary up for sale. Included in its listed assets were the TVR trademarks covering the UK, EU and US, and tooling for some of its best- known models.

Mr Smolensky, 26, had planned to announce new TVR models last month, to be built abroad rather than in the UK. TVR's managing director, David Oxley, declined to comment on the company's next move or on whether the administrators would be challenged on the ownership of the intellectual property.

The production arm, Blackpool Automotive, was formed last summer when Mr Smolensky restructured the business. It became the company responsible for paying the 260 workers, but days before it went into administration, he sold it for an unknown price to an unknown buyer. At the time, it was thought Mr Smolensky had retained the most valuable asset, the TVR trademark.

Of the two men listed as directors of Blackpool Automotive, one is Mr Smolensky's personal assistant.

A spokesman for the administrators of Blackpool Automotive, PKF, said between 15 and 20 interested parties had made contact about buying the firm.

Mr Smolensky, called the "baby oligarch" because he is the son of a Russian banking scion, paid £15m for TVR when he bought it in 2004 and is since thought to have invested another £30m.

Motor executives said Blackpool Automotive's only true value lay in the TVR trademark and it could attract low-cost car makers in Asia. It is unlikely production will ever resume in the UK.