Tony Fernandes has now responded to the suggestion that the Caterham Group has failed to sign over the shares in Caterham Sport Ltd. This is rather more than yesterday’s Twitter remark, but it does little to clear up the situation.
“In June 2014, I decided, together with my co-shareholders, to sell my stake in the Caterham F1 team,” he said. “We agreed in good faith to sell the shares to a Swiss company named Engavest on the basis that Engavest undertook to pay all of the existing and future creditors, including the staff. The continued payment of staff and creditors was so important to me that I ensured that the shares would not be transferred to the new buyers unless they complied with this condition. Sadly, Engavest has failed to comply with any of the conditions in the agreement and Caterham Sports Ltd (the UK operating company of the F1 team) has had to be put into administration by the bank, with large sums owing to numerous creditors. Our agreement with Engavest was very clear: there was no legal obligation to transfer the shares to them unless certain conditions – which included paying creditors – were met. Those conditions have not been met. Our lawyers have asked Engavest several times to comply with these conditions but they have failed to engage. If you agree to buy a business, you must pay its bills. They have breached that promise and now, sadly, it is others such as the employees and the fans of the Caterham F1 team that will suffer if the team ceases to race. I sincerely hope that this will not be the case and that a solution can be found.”
Thus we have two versions of the story. One presumes that all the money owed was written down in a clear manner so that the buyers knew exactly what they were taking on. If this was not the case, one can see why they might feel aggrieved. The lawyers will no doubt one day sort out who is right and who is wrong, but on paper it seems that if Fernandes still holds the shares then he still owns the business and if he is so keen to protect the employees then perhaps he should step in and do the right thing and get the team moving again. If that does not happen the team is dead. The parties involved can go on arguing on who killed it, but the result is the same.