Force India will officially be known now as Sahara Force India after team owner Vijay Mallya overnight announced the sale – having vehemently denied the rumour just a week ago – of a 42.5% stake in the team to multi-business conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar.
The announcement was made overnight at Delhi’s The Grand Hotel with Mallya and Sahara chairman Subrata Roy Sahara fielding a joint news conference.
Sahara’s investment is some $100 million, it was confirmed, while rumours doing the rounds suggest that Mallya has sold 8% of his 50% shareholding, while the Mol family – owners of carmaker Spyker, who sold the then-named F1 team to Mallya before the 2008 season – has sold 34% of its stake.
Sahara is therefore the majority shareholder, at 42.5%, while Mallaya (42%) and the Mols (14.5%) own the rest.
The announcement marks the first major investment in the Indian team by corporate India, outside of the various airline and liquor stickers emblazoned on the VJM04, all of which are owned by Mallya anyway.
Aside from the issue of Mallya’s outrageous lie in denying the sale just a week ago, there are still unanswered questions about the future ownership of the team.
It’s not too unreasonable to assume that Sahara will gain control at some point, with some sources suggesting that Mallya will be quietly eased aside in the next two years.
Certainly, the team has been a great way for Mallya to boost his profile and advertise his flagging airline and liquor products, but his pockets are only so deep and he cannot keep propping up the team forever with little outside investment on the books.
[Image via The Guardian]