Future of Caterham F1 team in danger amid feud between old and new owners

Legal action has been threatened against Tony Fernandes

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The Independent Online

A potential legal war between the old and new owners of Caterham has placed the future of the struggling Formula One team in grave danger.

A strongly-worded statement on Wednesday from the team on behalf of the Swiss and Middle Eastern consortium that took over at the end of June from Tony Fernandes is threatening action against the Malaysian entrepreneur.

The consortium claims Fernandes, along with two other former owners, have failed to transfer shares that would guarantee their purchase of the Leafield-based marque, and so have withdrawn all management.

Fernandes, who runs airline AirAsia and Barclays Premier League side QPR, has effectively been informed he is again in charge four months after seemingly cutting his losses.

In response, Fernandes has slated the statement as "garbage", and suggested via his Twitter account the consortium have yet to pay for Caterham.

Fernandes initially retweeted a question from a follower which read: "I wonder what tonyfernandes has to say.... Could it be he hasn't received payment from the Swiss/Middle Eastern investors?"

Later, Fernanded then posted: "If you buy something you should pay for it. Quite simple."

Since the mystery consortium inherited the team they have been beset with problems, initially axing more than 30 staff which has resulted in a claim of unlawful dismissal being filed against them.

At the start of this month bailiffs from The Sheriffs Office seized a variety of goods from Caterham Sports Limited (CSL), including a 2013 test car, a simulator, wheels, memorabilia and other equipment.

CSL is a supplier to the Caterham F1 team that on Monday went into administration and is in the hands of London-based accountancy firm Smith & Williamson.

Caterham insisted CSL was independent to the team itself and that preparations were in hand for the final three grands prix in the United States, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

However, in light of the team statement, there is now the very real prospect of their season being brought to a premature end, and of a more serious nature, they could fold.

The statement read: "On 29 June 2014, Caterham Enterprises Ltd, Caterham (UK) Ltd and Sheikh Mohamed Nasarudin (Seller) and their shareholders Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Bin Meranun entered into a Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA) with Engavest SA (Buyer) with regards to 1Malaysia Racing Team Sdn Bhd/Caterham F1 Team.

"Since the date of the Agreement, the Seller has refused to comply with its legal obligations to transfer their shares to the Buyer.

"The Buyer has been left in the invidious position of funding the team without having legal title to the team it had bought.

"This is in total contradiction to the Seller's press release of 3 October 2014 which stated that Mr Fernandes and his Caterham Group had no longer any connection with the Caterham F1 Team.

"The administrators of Caterham Sports Limited have been appointed on behalf of Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Berhad (Exim), a creditor of Mr Fernandes and the Caterham Group. The Buyer has no connection with Exim.

"Caterham Sports Ltd was a supplier company to the Caterham F1 Team.

"Very regrettably the administrators' appointment has had devastating effects on the F1 team's activities.

"Since their appointment, the administrators have released various press statements which have been severely detrimental to the management of the Caterham F1 team.

"After three months of operating the Caterham F1 Team in good faith, the Buyer is now forced to explore all its options including the withdrawal of its management team.

"Lawyers have been instructed by the Buyer to bring all necessary claims against all parties, including Mr Fernandes who, as an owner, will run the F1 operation."

Team principal Manfredi Ravetto has confirmed he has been forced to step back from managing of the team, and that Fernandes remains the owner.