In an era in which teams are feeling the financial pinch more than ever, it has emerged that Williams' preparations for F1 2010 are scarcely being helped by the fact that the former multiple world champions are still owed £10 million in unpaid sponsorship by collapsed Icelandic bank Glitnir.
According to the Daily Telegraph
, in 2008 the bank made a legally-binding guarantee to pay Williams what was owed to the Grove-based outfit by Icelandic retail group Baugur, owner of toy store and team sponsor Hamleys. Baugur similarly owns or has investments in leading British high street names House of Fraser, Oasis and Karen Millen, but after filing for bankruptcy in February of this year and placing its British business interests in administration, the company's payments were assumed by Glitnir.
However, when the Icelandic banking sector spectacularly crashed, Glitnir too found itself taken over by the country's government – since when Williams has failed to receive any money at all. The Telegraph
reports that the relationship between Glitnir and the Baugur Group has now come under the microscope – with suspicions that some of the country's banks have granted their shareholders significant interest-free loans, and in the knowledge that Baugur founder and CEO Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson is similarly at the helm of an investment company that owned a third of Glitnir.
Just under two years ago, Jóhannesson also toyed with the idea of buying a stake in Williams – a move that never materialised. Four years ago, the 41-year-old was found guilty and charged by a Reykjavík court with 40 counts of breaking the Icelandic penal code, Accounting Act, Annual Accounts Act and Companies Act – for which he received a three-month suspended sentence.
Last week it was revealed that the Serious Fraud Office has begun an investigation into fellow Icelandic bank Kaupthing Edge in an effort to determine why 'substantial value' was withdrawn from the bank 'in the weeks and days before it collapsed'.
Another of Williams' banking sponsors, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), announced earlier this year that it would not be renewing its three-year deal beyond the end of the 2010 F1 campaign. RBS' disgraced former chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin was forced to go into hiding after becoming a public figure of hate for the role he had played in the global credit crunch and his subsequent £700,000 annual pension.