Team Lotus has been quick to fire a strongly-worded reply to Proton / Group Lotus’ latest attempt to paint the independent team in a bad light as the naming rights case gears up for another hearing at London’s High Court.
A statement from Proton alleges that Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes asked for too much money for a financial settlement to resolve the naming rights matter once and for all. In turn, Group Lotus has said it is only prepared to pay up to $6 million to buy the rights to the ‘Team Lotus’ moniker.
Fernandes, it claims, has demanded a figure some six times higher to cover potential losses in having to rebrand his team, as well as to cover the loss of any current sponsors who could terminate their agreements made to a team whose name no longer exists.
“To all intents and purposes, [1Malaysia Racing Team] cannot now demand that we compensate them for a problem, which they got themselves into,” part of Proton’s statement reads.
“1MRT entered into a relationship with Team Lotus Ventures with full prior knowledge that Group Lotus was already in a long standing legal dispute with Team Lotus Ventures.”
Proton additionally claims that part of the conditions under which it terminated its licensing agreement with Team Lotus (then known as Lotus Racing) was that it could neither associate itself with Lotus or use the ‘Lotus’ name upon termination of the agreement.
Well, Team Lotus certainly isn’t taking this lying down and has returned fire, with its response citing alleged factual errors in Proton’s argument (certainly not the first time it’s done so).
It described Proton’s allegations as “at best misleading and at worst straight lies” that are “designed to paint a very negative picture of the shareholders and founders of 1MRT and to cloud the truth ahead of the court case between 1MRT and Group Lotus, beginning in London on 21st March”.
Fighting words indeed! It gets better…
“Proton has now stated for the first time that 1MRT could have remedied the breaches in the licence agreement and continued to use the Lotus Racing name in 2011. None of this is true and is in direct contradiction to the reasons given at the time for termination of the Licence which said that the breaches alleged were not capable of remedy.
“Additionally, in a number of recent media articles it has become clear that the Renault F1 team were working on black and gold livery designs for their 2011 car in August 2010, well before the licence allowing 1MRT to use the Lotus Racing name was terminated. The only possible reason this livery was being planned was to promote Renault F1’s sponsorship with Lotus Cars, using a classic Team Lotus F1 livery to cement their brands’ relationship in the public arena. This begs the obvious question – If Proton were happy to allow 1MRT to continue to operate under the licence and use the Lotus name, why were their employees at Group Lotus working with Renault F1 arranging a sponsorship deal which was in direct contravention of the exclusive licence given to 1MRT and using a livery so obviously owned by Team Lotus Ventures and not Group Lotus. Unfortunately Proton’s assertion that 1MRT could have continued to use the Lotus Racing name in 2011 is made to avoid the obvious conclusion that Group Lotus was itself in fundamental breach of the 1MRT licence, as is proved by their own partners at Renault F1 telling the truth about when they started working with Group Lotus on their proposed sponsorship deal. Fundamentally Proton made it very clear that they no longer wanted to work with 1MRT and the facts of this will be borne out in the upcoming court case.
It continues: “Reference is also made to the sum of money offered to 1MRT for the Team Lotus name, suggesting that 1MRT shareholders were making unreasonable compensation demands of Proton. However, what Proton fails to mention is that the vast majority of the compensation sought by 1MRT was to cover the loss of FOM revenue awarded to the team for their efforts on track in 2010. 1MRT asked Proton to indemnify them against the potential loss of prize money from FOM which would have resulted from 1MRT having to change its chassis name. The compensation sums being discussed for 1MRT leaving aside the FOM revenue were not overly generous, which is specifically why Proton has not included that in their statement yesterday. With the FOM revenue included the sums are reasonable – without referring to it Proton are able to paint 1MRT as greedy which is why they are deliberately excluding that key point.”
Interesting stuff indeed! Can we now let the courts decide? Please?