A very interesting report emerged in the British press today, claiming that McLaren had entertained the idea of a £25 million sponsorship tie-up with the Libyan government headed by the despot Colonel Gaddafi.
The Daily Mail reports that McLaren reportedly went as far as producing an electronic mock-up of a Formula 1 car with ‘Visit Libya’ stickers as part of a tie-in with the state-owned Libyan Tourist Board.
McLaren’s dealing were reportedly with Gaddafi’s second-oldest son, Saif – who was reportedly also a backer of Jacques Villeneuve’s failed Durango F1 bid – who they apparently invited to the team’s Woking headquarters.
The contact was reportedly brokered by Formula 3 driver and reality TV participant Alex Waters, whose family had strong connections with the Libyan dictatorship. Alex’s uncle is earning a fortune heading a firm of architects in the country – he was reportedly was heading a bid to rebuild Tripoli’s disused Grand Prix circuit.
Meanwhile, Alex’s father was trying to negotiate a deal to export armoured four-wheel-drive Supacat vehicles to the North African country.
It is believed that Alex had himself signed a deal with McLaren that he would receive a kickback if the Libyan sponsorship deal was signed and delivered, and he acted as the conduit before Saif Gaddafi lost interest late last year.
With McLaren already part-owned by the Bahrain state-owned Mumtalakat group, “Libya’s backing would have increased McLaren’s connections to embattled rulers in the Arab world,” the Mail wryly observed.
A McLaren spokesperson has admitted to the preliminary dealings with the Libyan government “with a view to discussing a commercial sponsorship [opportunity]”.
However, they added: “No meetings between any personnel from McLaren and any personnel from the consortium from Libya ever took place and the deal therefore never reached square one.”
It certainly begs you to consider where you would draw the line in the question: Is all money necessarily good money?
[Original images via Flickr]