Featured Posts

Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

Read more

Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

Read more

Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

Read more

Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

Read more

UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

Read more

Formula One owners CVC sell $1.6bn stake ahead of share floatation

Category : Business

• Sale of over 20% of stake gives F1 valuation of at least $7bn
• F1′s initial public offering due to made public in June

The private equity firm CVC Capital has sold a $1.6bn stake in Formula One to three investors including the asset and investment management group, BlackRock, ahead of the motor racing company’s intended $3bn initial public offering (IPO) floatation in Singapore, sources revealed on Tuesday.

The deal sets a benchmark valuation of at least $7bn for Formula One, as financial advisers begin to target potential investors during the pre-marketing process of the IPO. The shares are expected to be put on offer in June.

The pre-IPO deal cuts CVC’s stake in Formula One to about 40% from 63.4%, one of the sources said. The two other investors are asset manager Waddell & Reed and Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management, the asset management unit of the Norwegian central bank, known as Norges Bank.

“It raises some capital, which may be required, and it gives the IPO a little bit more credibility if some well-known investment houses come on board pre-IPO,” said Peter Elston, head of Asia-Pacific strategy and asset allocation at Aberdeen Asset Management’s Asian unit.

Finance Asia said the transaction gives Formula One a value of about $9.1bn including $7.2bn of equity and $1.9bn of debt.

“We view this [pre-IPO deal] as a validation of the company’s valuation,” the source said, ahead of the actual floatation, which is set to be priced before the end of June after the company and its bankers meet with investors and fund managers to gauge demand for the offering.

“I don’t think it’s going to be priced cheaply,” said Roger Tan, chief executive of SIAS Research. “There’s a brand premium to it.”

A source close to the Formula One deal had said earlier this month that the IPO could be delayed because of ongoing market jitters.

Carroll Shelby obituary

Category : Business

American racing driver and motor engineer who developed the classic Cobra sports car

Carroll Shelby, the colourful American racing driver and engineer who shared the winning Aston Martin with Britain’s Roy Salvadori in the 1959 Le Mans 24-hour sports car classic, and who later gave his name to the iconic Shelby American Cobra high-performance sports car, has died at the age of 89.

The genial Texan’s trademark was his distinctive striped, bib-style racing overalls, which gave him a swashbuckling, Casey Jones-like appearance throughout a distinguished racing career that included eight world championship grand prix outings driving a private Maserati 250F, and latterly for the ill-starred Aston Martin Formula One team.

Born in Leesburg, Texas, the son of the town’s postmaster, Shelby was a child when his family moved to Dallas. Despite being diagnosed with a slight heart murmur at the age of 10, he served as a flight instructor with the US air force during the second world war. He went on to work in the truck business, before turning his hand to chicken farming, unsuccessfully, in the late 1940s.

Meanwhile, Shelby had started to dabble in sports car racing, and by 1952 had gained a degree of recognition after some promising outings at the wheel of a Jaguar XK120, before switching to a fearsome, Cadillac-powered Allard the following year. In 1954, spurred on by the offer of a cup from Kleenex heir Jim Kimberly – one of the great US racing philanthropists of the time – for the best performance by an amateur driver, Shelby entered the Allard in the Buenos Aires 1,000km sports car race, co-driving with airline pilot Dale Duncan, who was a useful contact when it came to air freighting the car to Argentina.

This first competitive appearance outside the US for Shelby was memorable: he and Duncan finished 10th, despite a carburettor fire during a pit stop, which had to be extinguished by the simple expedient of Duncan urinating on the engine. More significantly, Aston Martin driver Peter Collins introduced Shelby to his team manager, John Wyer, who had been impressed with the Texan’s handling of the wild and woolly Allard. Shelby now had his foot in the door at Aston Martin, which would lead to a place in their works team – and that memorable victory at Le Mans five years later.

Like most of those who drove for Aston Martin in the 1950s, Shelby loved the team’s ambience, and he never seriously considered any of the fleeting, and possibly empty, offers to join Maserati or Ferrari. His Texan penchant for straight talking occasionally made David Brown, the Aston Martin company’s owner, wince: telling the boss one of his cars handled like “10 pounds of shit in a five-pound bag” was pretty strong stuff from a hired hand in the mid-1950s. Shelby recalled Brown’s reaction: “He got pissed off at that, turned round and walked away.”

Along with Salvadori, Shelby also took up the F1 Aston Martin DBR4s during the 1959 season. But these front-engined museum pieces were obsolete even before they raced for the first time, a new generation of mid-engined cars from Cooper dashing their hopes of success. At the start of 1960, Shelby suffered bad chest pains that alerted him to a now-serious heart condition. Despite attempting to control the situation by driving with nitroglycerin pills under his tongue, Shelby decided to retire from racing at the end of that year.

One of Shelby’s dreams had been the manufacture of a high-performance American sports car, so when he heard in 1961 that supplies of Bristol engines had dried up for the British AC company, he brokered a deal that saw AC switch to using a 4.7-litre Ford V8, and the famous Cobra was born. Ford backed Shelby’s efforts on the race track, and the Shelby Cobras were duly homologated as GT cars by the start of the 1963 international sports car racing calendar, when they were pitched against the Ferrari GTOs. In 1965, the Shelby Cobras won the FIA GT championship, wresting this prestigious title from their Ferrari opposition.

By 1970, Shelby was diversifying into other businesses outside motor racing, but in 1982 Chrysler boss Lee Iaccoca, an old friend, offered him the opportunity to serve as a performance consultant to the automotive giant, bringing him back into the motor racing orbit.

He is survived by his wife, Cleo, his two sons, Patrick and Michael, his daughter, Sharon, and his sister, Anne.

Carroll Shelby, racing driver and engineer, born 11 January 1923; died 10 May 2012.

From gamer to racing driver

Category : Business

Jann Mardenborough was a shy Cardiff teenager who loved his Gran Turismo computer game. So imagine his parents’ surprise when he won a place in the Dubai 24 Hour race

Jann Mardenborough grew up dreaming of driving racing cars. It was an infatuation that had begun with the gift of a Matchbox toy as a baby, but which he pursued with such quiet intensity that even his father Steve discovered only a year ago that motor racing – not football – was Jann’s first love. Jann was quiet. To his mother Lesley-Anne he was “not particularly outgoing and quite a home boy”. Often too shy to answer the front door, he’d spend time in his bedroom, where he played video games. Yet this reserved, awkward teenager from Cardiff had a big surprise in store for his parents.

At eight, Jann thought he might have a chance of making it as a racing driver. Steve, an ex-professional footballer, had taken him to a kart circuit, and before long the owner took notice and told Steve his son was a natural. But finance proved the stumbling block. The local track closed down and the nearest alternative was in Bristol. “I stopped when I was 11,” says Jann, “because it got too expensive.”

He returned quietly to his bedroom, where he took to the next best thing – virtual racing on the video game Gran Turismo. It was the perfect release for the racing-obsessed teen: a singular pursuit offering a test of individual skill in which he could lose himself.

“One day,” says Steve, “he came downstairs and said: ‘Dad, I’ve qualified.’ I said: ‘Qualified for what?’”

In the middle of 2011, Mardenborough had entered an online competition on Gran Turismo 5 that offered one final shot at the real thing. Out of 90,000 other virtual racers, he made it into the top eight in Europe and won the chance to test himself against other gamers in a real car at Brands Hatch. That he had kept it to himself for so long was entirely in character for a boy who did not like to make a fuss. “At that point we had no idea what it was,” admits Steve.

Seven months later, in January this year, Mardenborough, who’d never set foot in a racing car, was at the wheel of a serious piece of kit in the Dubai 24 Hour race – and at the beginning of what appears to be a very exciting career.

The video-game franchise in which Mardenborough began his journey, Sony’s Gran Turismo, was originally designed by Japan’s Kazunori Yamauchi in 1997. In an industry often (unfairly) accused of infantilism, Gran Turismo stands out for its quest to mirror a physical rather than fantastical reality. This is a racing “simulator” and its success (more than 60m sales worldwide) owes everything to how well it measures up to the real thing. Its sports cars may be but virtual creations, yet everything about them is designed to behave as closely as possible to the genuine article.

The level of accuracy now available in computer modelling means Formula One drivers, as a matter of course, do laps on simulators in preparation for races. Lewis Hamilton himself admitted to learning tracks during his rookie F1 year playing PlayStation with his brother.

Visually, the game is stunning. In cockpit mode, with a virtual dashboard at the bottom of the screen, the bonnet and track stretching to the fore and the claustrophobic confines of the interior rendered on the periphery, there is little or no conscious need to suspend disbelief. The pedal goes down and players are “in” the game – unconsciously leaning into corners and breathless while trying to thread through a pack of competitors.

But however accurately the game mimics reality, there is one crucial difference: simulations still lack movement – the sensation of the car reacting, grip felt through the seat of the pants, acceleration that compresses the body, and the forces generated in cornering.

Sensing a marketing opportunity, Sony teamed up with Nissan to form the GT Academy in 2008. It was a one-off project created to answer a simple question: could you take a gamer and put them in a real racing car? A 23-year-old Spaniard, Lucas Ordoñez, who was just beginning a business degree, won the online and then real-world challenge. After intensive training, he raced as one of a team of drivers in the 2009 Dubai 24.

With the marketing objectives achieved, it could have ended there. Except, much as he was just a gamer, Ordoñez was good. “I’m not a nervous guy, but I was physically sick with worry that we were sending this guy out to his death,” said Nissan’s Darren Cox.

But the way the driver dealt with a problem calmed his nerves. “I remember hearing the radio: ‘Left rear puncture, coming into the pits; please change left rear.’ He’s in a 400 horsepower Nissan 350Z, he’s got a crash helmet on, he’s got the car moving around underneath him, but he’s calm. And at that point I knew we had something,” says Cox.

The programme was extended to see if this unorthodox method could uncover further talent. French gamer Jordan Tresson won a GT Academy place in 2010 and Ordoñez himself went on to race for the professional Signature Nissan team, taking a podium at sports car racing’s most important meeting, the Le Mans 24 Hours, in 2011. From this came the concept of a car driven only by computer gamers entering this year’s Dubai 24. Two new candidates were needed to be brought up to speed and the academy opened its online competition again. Which was how Jann Mardenborough found it.

The transition from computer-generated racing to hard, cold, dangerous steel ought to be both difficult and potentially terrifying, yet for Mardenborough it was instinctive: “It felt completely normal,” he says. How to read racing lines – correct entrances and exits to corners; hand-eye co-ordination and a visual sense, plus the ability to look ahead of the car into breaking zones, had all been learned in the bedroom. “I’d never power-steered a car before,” says Mardenborough. “I had only ever done it in a game. I was controlling it just with the throttle and it was completely natural to me.”

He passed the test at Brands Hatch and later, at Silverstone, beat 11 other finalists to the place as a GT Academy driver. “My mouth was hurting because I was grinning from ear to ear so much,” he says. “I met Bob [Neville], my team manager, straight after. That was the moment I realised I was a racing driver.” Mardenborough was placed on a driver-development programme at Silverstone. In six months he and the winner of the US GT Academy, Bryan Heitkotter, gained their international racing licences, a process that normally takes three years.

The gamers are young, malleable and without ego. Even the lack of racing experience has a positive side-effect. Mardenborough’s mentor Rob Jenkinson, a former racer himself, was sceptical of the academy concept but became convinced after seeing it in action. He explains that drivers entering through the traditional route have longer to pick up bad habits, sometimes taking years to correct. “With this, in six months we eliminate mistakes,” he says. “We make good decisions on their behalf immediately.”

What cannot be eliminated is the danger. Accidents now mean more than just hitting the restart button. “I know there’s a dangerous side to it, but it didn’t really cross my mind,” Mardenborough says, despite having rolled the car at a race in Holland.

The Dubai MotorCity circuit forms part of Dubailand, which was to be a vast theme park stretching into the desert, featuring Tiger Woods’s first golf-course design. Today sand blows across empty lots and cranes loom over half-finished buildings, exactly as they were in 2008 when the financial crisis stopped the project in its tracks – reminders of the dangers of expecting too much, too soon. It’s a lesson not lost on the gamers and their RJN Motorsport team.

Mardenborough bounces through the paddock and pit lane on his toes, ready for the Dubai 24 Hour race. He shares with Hamilton not only the sculpted good looks but the calm self-assurance the McLaren driver displays. There’s no sign of the shy teenager. Motor racing is all about focus, and before he steps into the car Mardenborough has it in spades.

For the first part of the race, the crew and drivers are struggling with mechanical gremlins, and tension suffuses the coarse desert air.

Endurance racing is like no other. It is a bewildering assault on the senses. The noise never abates and the cars spread out until there seems to be an endless stream streaking past, the atmosphere thick with the smell of rubber and oil. Each team races flat-out stints interspersed with furiously quick pit stops, looking to eke out tiny advantages that over a full 24 hours can make the difference between winning and losing. Through all this, the overriding aim is to at least finish the race – to see the chequered flag come down – and fortunately the early fears that technical problems might signal game over are dismissed as the car settles down into quick, trouble-free racing through the night and into the morning.

With an hour and a half to go, one driving stint remains and now, in third place, Neville chooses Mardenborough to take the wheel. Having raced so hard for so long, a mistake at this stage would be heartbreaking. The pressure is immense. Mardenborough brings the car home with ease and the team is on the podium.

“When I was 17 or so I was afraid to answer the phone,” he tells me afterwards. “I’ve come a huge, long way.” His mother calls it a “fairy story”. Perhaps, as the academy opens its doors again on Tuesday to search for further young talent, it is also a fable for the modern age – where video gaming isn’t all bad.

Just over two weeks after the race Nissan confirmed Mardenborough as its full-time driver for the season in the Blancpain Endurance Series – a full-scale, six-race, professional racing competition that visits some of the most famous circuits in Europe. It might be the start of something great. “Jann’s 20 and there’s a very wide sphere ahead of him,” says Neville. “We have to just keep the lid on him…”