The maker of the Caterham Formula One car has fallen into administration, threatening the future of the racing franchise.
London-based accountants Smith & Williamson were on Friday appointed administrators to Caterham Sports Limited, the Oxfordshire-based manufacturer that designs and builds the F1 cars.
The cash-strapped team’s dismal on-track performance has been more than matched by its corporate travails. Caterham F1, formerly known as Lotus Racing and run under a licence held by parent company 1 Malaysia Racing Team, has yet to win a point in five years of competition and currently sits at the foot of the FIA championship.
Tha lack of success prompted team owner Tony Fernandes the AirAsia tycoon and chairman of Queens Park Rangers football club, to sell the franchise and the manufacturing company to a consortium of investors.
However, the new owners – whose identity remains unclear – have struggled to raise sufficient financing, leaving Caterham Sports owing millions to its suppliers.
“Clearly, the parties who bought the business from Tony Fernandes have been unable to fund this company,” said Finbarr O’Connell, restructuring and recovery partner at Smith & Williamson.
“When it comes to F1 teams, you are normally dealing with one figurehead who is very much in the public eye. [However], the current owners of the Caterham Formula One team are not completely clear to me as yet.”
He said he had also yet to make contact with Constantin Cojocar, the Romanian who has been the sole director and shareholder of Caterham Sports since the company was sold.
The administrators said in a statement: “Mr Cojocar . . . has indicated in court papers that there was an intention that his associates would provide funding of £2m per week which would be used to pay the company’s creditors but that, unfortunately, the money promised by his backers did not arrive.”
1MRT, which is being advised by former team principal Colin Kolles, remains in dispute with 40 former employees who accuse them of unfair dismissal. The remaining 200 or so employees have been transferred from Caterham Sports to 1MRT, meaning the company effectively has no employees.
Bailiffs this month seized equipment from the manufacturer’s Leafield plant, including a test car, pit equipment and steering wheels, according to the administrators, who are trying to reclaim the goods.
Smith & Williamson is now in discussions about a sale of the maker of the F1 car – which is separate from the maker of the brightly coloured, iconic Caterham roadsters.
Possible buyers include Manfredi Ravetto, the team boss; Michael Willmer, a former Caterham Sports director and current 1MRT director, and 1MRT itself.
Mr O’Connell said: “I’ve got a duty to get as much money back into this company as I can to pay creditors and suppliers.”
Caterham Sports owes an estimated £12m-£15m to its suppliers. According to accounts filed with Companies House, the company had revenues of £47m in the year to the end of December 2012, and pre-tax profit of just under £5m. Accounts for 2013 are overdue, according to Companies House records.
1MRT could not be reached for comment.
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