Force India could be set to lose Sahara as its title backer as the company attempts to sell its F1 stake in an effort free one of its founders from jail in India.
Subrata Roy was arrested in March 2014 after failing to comply with a court order to refund money raised from millions of small investors by selling them bonds. This was later deemed illegal, with Roy jailed until Sahara refunds investors.
After several attempts to free Roy were denied by the courts, the conglomerate is now launching a renewed attempt to raise the funds of $780 million by divesting assets. According to Reuters
, these include hotels and its stake in the Force India F1 team, which combined is believed to make up around $440 million of that total.
Sahara – a former sponsor of the national cricket team – purchased 42.5 per cent of shares in Force India in 2011 and has been present as a title backer ever since. Team principal Vijay Mallya also owns 42.5 per cent, while the Dutch Mol family – present from the team's Spyker days – has 15 per cent.
Should Sahara sell its stake, Force India could head into the season without a title backer. Original plans for the team to go into collaboration with drinks company Diageo have fallen silent in recent weeks, while Aston Martin – which was tipped to come on board in a branding exercise – has also distanced itself.