According to Christian Sylt, for CNN, Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has claimed the New Jersey Grand Prix is off for 2014. The race organizers apparently don’t have the cash according to Ecclestone:
“It’s not on the cards for next year,” he said, adding that the problem is “they haven’t got any money.”
Ecclestone has already canceled the race once when it was slated for the 2013 calendar but organizers say they are on track to host the race. Grand Prix of America spokesman Alex Howe said:
“We don’t comment on financial matters but we are on track for 2014 and will have a statement following the announcement of the official 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship schedule,” said Howe.”
The investment group is being led by Leo Hindery Junior and was to offer a street circuit with the New York skyline as the backdrop. Hindery, working with UBS bank to secure the funding, had hired former CART series executive Chris Pook to help with the investments and organization. Hendery Junior is no stranger to big sporting ventures having been a finalist for the purchase of the Chicago Cubs and he is the managing partner of private equity fund InterMedia Partners. Ecclestone said of Hindery:
“is like Donington all over again” and added that “it is such a muddle and a mess that it is not worth doing.”
“The guy is a multibillionaire and is well-known in New York,” Ecclestone said.
If you’re new to Formula One, these statements may seem a bit terse but in reality, Ecclestone simply uses them to place pressure on a contract negotiation. He has a long track record of being quasi-disparaging with potential promoters who don’t pay the required sanctioning fees quickly.
Does this mean the dance is over for New Jersey? It very well could be stranger things have happened. The USGP in Austin faced similar tongue lashings from Ecclestone and with understandable reason. The ownership litigation was eroding the chance that it would ever make it on the calendar but it did in the end.
Ultimately getting a group of people to pay you $25 million per year for 10-years with a 10% escalator is not an every day occurrence. People are not lined up at the door to build a $200 million or more racing circuit and chomping at the bit to pour an additional $300 million over ten years into a race.
Should the Grand Prix of America come up with the cash and sound facility construction backing and plans, it could find its way onto the 2014 calendar. The US is a big market for F1 and two races for $250 million or more over ten years is to tempting for CVC Capital Partners (commercial rights owners of F1) to pass up.
On the other hand, I will believe it when I see it. With Pook and Hindery Junior involved, I’m not holding my breath. A guy who scuttled CART and a political activist billionaire is not necessarily something I look for when hoping a group of folks will bring another F1 race to the US.