It has been revealed that at the same time as examining proposals from 'something in the region of a dozen' interested parties, Nick Fry has submitted his own offer to seize control of Honda's beleaguered Formula 1 outfit – to the exasperation of other bidders.
Earlier this week, the team's CEO stated that from more than 30 initial inquiries, he had whittled the list of potential new owners down to around twelve [see separate story – click here
] for what he has described as a 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity.
Whilst any new owner would need to convince Honda in Japan that it possesses the necessary funding in place to see the Brackley-based concern through the next five years, in return the parent company has promised to take care of the $100m associated debts.
Moreover, whoever does ultimately buy the team will get a paid-for entry into the 2009 F1 World Championship, four years' lease on the Northants factory, a 750-strong workforce and a car that – with development on the unloved RA108 having been abandoned early on to focus all efforts on its successor – should in theory be fairly handy.
After convincing Honda President Takeo Fukui to allow him time to try to find a buyer, Fry was tasked with coming up with a shortlist of possible investors by managing officer Hiroshi Oshima, with the intention that Honda in Japan would then inspect all bids and make a decision.
The Englishman's management buy-out attempt has reportedly caused anger amongst his fellow bidders, however, who are said to have received indifferent responses to what they believed to be well-financed and well-presented offers, according to British newspaper the Daily Telegraph
. It is understood that despite having submitted his own bid, the 52-year-old has not been asked to step down from his role in charge of vetting the bidding process, leading to a potential conflict of interest within a company that has always taken great care to be fastidiously ethical and above-board in all of its dealings, and one that is highly sensitive about its public image.
Moreover, amidst the current credit crunch that was the very catalyst for the Tokyo-based car maker's withdrawal in the first place, Fry is likely to find it no easy task to secure sponsors and raise enough revenue to keep Honda F1 in business. A pertinent example of this is his marked failure to procure a title sponsor for the team in 2007 and 2008, leading to the façade of the outwardly ecologically-aware 'Earth Dreams' initiative, largely dismissed within the paddock as merely an effort to conceal the fact that no major backers had been forthcoming.
It is just such a dearth of potential sponsors that has scared Prodrive chairman David Richards off the scent, after the former World Rally Championship-winning co-driver was initially tipped as the most likely buyer. The Welshman – who ran Honda in its previous guise as BAR-Honda from 2002 to 2004, with considerable success – has explained that with the economic climate as it is, an entry into F1 is not a workable proposition.
“All I can say is that I have made it very clear that the only terms [under which] I would ever consider a return or an involvement was if I felt we could be competitive,” the 56-year-old is quoted as having said by Planet F1
, “and nobody expects to win in their first year of Formula 1.