The Haas Formula 1 team’s ‘unconventional’ new sponsor Rich Energy has caused quite a stir with its exuberant entry into the world of Formula 1.
It is said that money has already exchanged hands between the startup Energy drinks company and Haas and that the company is backed by some big-hitters, but with very little evidence in the public domain of any sales to speak of, few assets or employees and even a lawsuit hanging over it head over the ownership of its logo, it was bound to raise a few eyebrows.
And this has been compounded by some frankly ludicrous claims by its CEO William Storey about how it and Haas are going to beat Red Bull on track (Red Bull Racing have won 59 Grand Prix, four world drivers titles and four constructors titles in ten years) and off track (Red Bull sells 6 billion cans annually generating $7.4 billion in revenue).
Let’s be honest – few startup companies sponsor a Formula 1 Team before hitting the ground in the hope that will drive sales. It sounds a bit daft doesn’t it??
But Haas have completed due diligence and while it might be an unconventional approach, it all seems above board.
Despite it all appearing to be kosher, it reminded me of the time in the late 1990s the Arrows Formula 1 team were seduced by the alleged wealth of African Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim, who offered to buy a stake in the team in exchange for $125 million, even concocting a brand ‘T-minus’ which was (coincidentally) a fake energy drinks company whose logo would appear on the cars, generating more income via sponsorship of the team.
Only no money ever materialised and when Prince Malik disappeared late on in the season, the utterly worthless T-Minus branding from the Arrows cars did too, and team owner Tom Walkinshaw was left to lick his wounds and wonder how it was able to happen.
It difficult to say what Prince Malik’s motives were for such a scam. He’d employed the services of a PR agency to make him ‘as famous as Eddie Jordan’ and so he was clearly in the market to make a name for himself.
And make a name for himself he did. Only unlike EJ, it’s not a name anyone will remember particularly fondly.
It’s possible that he thought he could make the T-minus brand work and build it into something huge enough to eventually give Arrows the money they’d been promised. Or perhaps he just fancied swanning up and down the pitlanes of the world as a team-owner, before the whole house of cards came inevitably crashing down around him, at which point he’d disappear.
Prince Malik wasn’t done with racing just yet though. In 2008 he was arrested for stealing $750,000 given to him to develop the career of young Nascar driver Robert Richardson jr.
“He is a manipulator of men and a manipulator of the desires of men’s hearts” said DA Christopher Milner, representing Richardson’s father, whose money Prince Malik had allegedly stolen.
With further claims of fraud hanging over his head, Prince Malik returned to his native Nigeria.
Sadly, Arrows were never to recover from the debacle, and their 25 year history in Formula 1 came to an end two and a half years later.