Leafield factory workers shut out as ownership row continues
by Our Sports Desk
CATERHAM’S chances of being on the grid at next weekend’s United States grand prix looked grim yesterday after administrators locked staff out of its Leafield headquarters.
London accountants Smith & Williamson, which is overseeing the administration of Caterham Sports Ltd (CSL) and which has the factory and cars in its possession, closed the gates after failing to make an acceptable deal in meetings on Wednesday.
Workers were shut out just two days before they were set to fly out the team’s cars to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
CSL make and supply the cars and equipment to F1 entry-holder 1MRT, the company behind the marque, and although the administrators had previously allowed use of the factory after moving in on Monday they have now taken a much tougher approach.
Further complicating matters, there is now a dispute between the former and present owners, who have pulled all management.
Engavest SA, the mystery consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern businessmen who took over Caterham from Tony Fernandes at the end of June, are now threatening legal action against the Malaysian businessman.
On Wednesday the group alleged that they hadn’t received the shares that would make their ownership official.
“The shares have not been transferred and therefore Mr Fernandes remains the owner of Caterham F1 and is fully responsible for all its activities,” the company said in a statement.
Fernandes said that claim was “garbage” and his lawyers were looking into it, suggesting on Twitter that the consortium hadn’t yet paid up.
“If you buy something you should pay for it. Quite simple,” he tweeted.
More than 200 jobs hang in the balance, and time is running out for Caterham to make not only the US grand prix but also the final two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.