Dubai buys Formula One team: weeks of speculation ended in August when a company controlled by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai announced it was buying a Formula One racing team.

Author:Williams, Stephen

GRAND PRIX INVESTMENTS (GPI), a company controlled by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai, has acquired a controlling stake in the Jordan Formula One racing team. The Belgravia Group, which acts as investment advisor to Jersey-based GPI, described the deal as "not simply about cheque-books" but being about "creating a credible and proper Formula One team".

A statement issued on behalf of Sheikh Al Maktoum named no teams. It simply read: "The Emirate of Dubai is pleased to announce that following extensive planning and development, GPI is in negotiations to acquire, operate and manage a Formula One team, to be headquartered in Dubai."

"I am delighted to reconfirm my support to GPI and the purchase of a Formula One team, which will then become known as the 'official' Dubai team," Al Maktoum told the press. "This is an exciting time for Dubai and the United Arab Emirates as the team will compete with the very best in motorsport and assist in promoting the country on a global basis."

Before the Jordan deal was finally confirmed in early August, a number of Formula One companies were being considered by GPI. Both the Ford-owned Jaguar team, and the British American Tobacco sponsored BAR team were rumoured to have been involved in exploratory talks with representatives of GPI. The Minardi team, although Formula One's weakest team, was also believed to be a possible bid target.

Earlier this year Bahrain hosted a Grand Prix at its new purpose-built circuit--the first time that a Formula One event had ever been held in the Gulf. Dubai's move to become directly involved in a Formula One racing team is seen as the Emirate's latest strategy to develop its tourism and commerce sectors--in line with its vision to become the 'Monaco of the Middle East.' The ultimate aim is to move the economy away from its heavy reliance on oil revenues.

By purchasing an existing team, rather than building one from scratch, GPI has avoided the necessity of paying to the motorsport's governing body, Formula One Administration, a $50m bond that new entrants are obliged to raise under the sport's existing rules.

The Jordan team was founded in 1990 by Eddie Jordan--one of the most colourful and outspoken personalities on the Formula One scene. The team has had a difficult 2004 season--as have all the teams who have struggled with the seemingly invincible supremacy of the Ferrari team and its driver Michael Schumacher--although Jordan has scored four Grand Prix...

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