The revelation that the man who presided over the greatest corporate loss in British history is possibly being lined up to succeed Max Mosley as FIA President has been received with widespread anger, with leading figures claiming it would be 'the reward of failure'.
It was rumoured last month that Sir Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, was one of the front-running candidates for the hugely influential and powerful presidential role when Mosley steps down – which could be as early as October this year – and that he has already been approached by Formula 1's governing body to that end.
The controversy arises from the fact that it was 51-year-old Goodwin who oversaw the recently-announced, unprecedented £28 billion loss and massive collapse in RBS' share price – walking away from the ensuing crisis with an £8.4 million pension fund – and shareholders believe it would be both a mistake and an injustice were that failure to be rewarded.
“What are Sir Fred's qualifications?” Roger Lawson, the communications director of the UK Shareholders Association, asked in an interview with The Scotsman
. “I would have thought the FIA have enough public relations problems already. This will just make things worse for them. They must have a very peculiar board to come up with this nominee – surely there must be plenty of other people qualified for the post.
“This really is the reward of failure, and if it goes ahead, will be a real poke in the eye for RBS shareholders. I think anyone thinking of appointing him should be examining Sir Fred's career very carefully before they go ahead.
“In terms of networking or public relations, he's such a public figure. Everyone will know where he has come from – it would start them on the wrong foot immediately. I would have thought the FIA would need somebody with a good reputation.”
Lawson's last comment is a reference to the tabloid sex scandal in which Mosley became embroiled early last year, and which threatened to not only bring him down but indeed drag the entire sport into disrepute.
Sir Fred – a law graduate and keen motorsport enthusiast with a penchant for driving his Ferrari around Knockhill and restoring classic cars – played an instrumental part, alongside close friend and triple F1 World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart, RBS' sporting ambassador, in securing Williams its multi-million pound sponsorship agreement with the bank .
That deal is believed to be playing in his favour now, though with financial institutions shying away from sponsorship rather than joining the fray amidst the current global credit crunch, industry insiders have warned that Goodwin's influence in the sector could ultimately count for little.