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Jordan owner driven by Russian roots
Sonia Oxley in Moscow | February 24, 2005 13:06 IST
Russian-born magnate Alex Shnaider says his new Midland Formula One team will ditch Jordan's rock-and-roll glamour image and re-invent itself as a modern and successful Russian venture.
"We want to portray the progressive image that Russia has today -- modern, intelligent and successful," he told Reuters in an interview in Moscow on Wednesday.
Shnaider's Midland Group bought the struggling British-based team, founded in 1991 by colourful Irish entrepreneur Eddie Jordan, for an undisclosed sum last month.
This season's car, the drivers and the team will be presented in Moscow on Friday.
The purchase enabled Shnaider, who had planned to enter the sport with a new Midland team and Dallara-built car in 2006, to avoid paying a $48 million bond entry fee.
The Jordan name will disappear at the end of the season when the team will be renamed Midland F1 and Shnaider hopes to attract Russian sponsors and drivers.
"Because of my Russian roots, I decided it would be an incredible opportunity to bring something back into Russia," said the naturalised Canadian.
Shnaider said Midland were close to signing a Russian test driver, with 23-year-old Roman Rusinov mentioned in the past, and was also planning to bring young Russians through the ranks by having a Formula Three team in the Euro Series.
Jordan's line-up for the season starting in Australia on March 6 is Narain Karthikeyan, India's first Formula One driver, and Portugal's Tiago Monteiro. Both are rookies.
Shnaider said the Toyota-powered team's focus for 2005 is simply to finish after rushing to be ready in time. When the team changes its name to Midland, the bar will be raised.
He said the company is planning to invest $100 million per year in the team, although this could increase depending on sponsorship deals.
"We think that this budget is sufficient in order to do all the things we would like to do," he said. "We are prepared to make substantial investments on our own, but obviously we will be looking for partners and sponsors to join us."
He said Midland are in talks with various potential sponsors, including existing Jordan ones, but did not give details.
Team sources said long-standing tobacco sponsor Gallaher was expected to remain with a reduced presence focusing on the Sobranie brand rather than Benson and Hedges.
Shnaider said it is a combination of a love for the sport and the commercial potential of Formula One that prompted him to enter the business.
"I'm a fan -- I like the technology, the sport, the politics that are behind the sport," he said in his office where a big chocolate Formula One car -- sporting Russian colours -- is on display.
"On the other side, because Formula One is a global sport...we want to use Formula One as a platform to develop our business."
Born in Russia but brought up and educated in Canada, Shnaider made his money in the steel business. He marketed exports of the metal from Russia and Ukraine and was also involved in post-Soviet privatisations of steel plants.
He has been likened to Chelsea soccer club's Russian billionaire owner, oil tycoon Roman Abramovich, who has invested millions in buying new players for the London club and brought English Premier League success within their reach.
"Formula One is a different sport to soccer. In Formula One, even if you spend a lot of money very fast, you will not necessarily have positive results," Shnaider said.
But he will have some very fast cars, which he is hoping to try out for himself.
"Maybe at one of the testing sessions," he said.
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