Only days after Simon Gillett was forced to re-affirm the financial health of Donington Park's Formula 1 preparations, his company Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd has vigorously dismissed reports that circuit owner Sir Tom Wheatcroft has initiated legal action on the grounds of unpaid rent.
Hot on the heels of strongly denied rumours that DVLL suffered losses of more than £10 million last year alone – and is in debt to the tune of a net £66.7 million in total [see separate story – click here
] – it has been claimed in British newspaper the Daily Telegraph
that Wheatcroft has issued Gillett with a writ over unpaid rent.
The respected broadsheet added that 'if 85-year-old Wheatcroft – who was made president of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd when Gillett's company took on the circuit's lease in 2007 – has lost faith in Gillett, this could be a big blow to Donington's attempt to stage the British Grand Prix'.
Having only previously welcomed the top flight on one occasion – the water-logged 1993 European Grand Prix, famously won by Ayrton Senna – and faced with a significant £100 million re-development project necessary to bring the track up to F1 standard, the odds have never been in Donington's favour, particularly in the current economic climate.
Though work has only recently begun following a delay in the planning permission process, Donington Park spokesperson Rebecca Brocklesby told Crash.net
that not only is there no dispute with Wheatcroft, but that there is equally no concern on the financial side of things. DVLL took out a mortgage with the Bank of Scotland back in December.
“There's no foundation to the rumours,” she said of the talk of legal action. “I've seen Simon [Gillett] today and spoken to him. Everybody at Donington Park has confirmed to me that Tom Wheatcroft has not issued a writ.
“We have always said we will reveal full details of our financial package in quarter one of 2009, at the end of March. We haven't changed our minds on any of the details, and certainly nothing has happened to make us concerned or cause any worry with regard to not being able to raise the funds. There has been no change in our perspective regarding any of the work. It's all going according to plan.”
Ms Brocklesby did confirm, however, that Gillett's erstwhile DVLL business partner Lee Gill 'has filed court papers' after being dismissed without notice at the beginning of September last year, adding that 'because of the legal proceedings we can't comment on that'.
She also insisted that stories suggesting security firm McKenzie Arnold has withdrawn workers over unpaid fees dating back to last August are pure fabrication, affirming that 'they were never contracted to work on the site of Donington Park'.
“We are happy for someone to ask them if they can produce a contract to carry out work on the site,” she contended. “I have been told categorically that they have never had a contract to work on the site.”
Donington was awarded a ten-year contract to host the British Grand Prix as of 2010 by F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone last summer. The race has been held at Silverstone for the past 22 years, and on 42 occasions since the official inception of the world championship back in 1950.
Wheatcroft's company Wheatcroft & Son Ltd were unavailable for comment.