Interpublic, the advertising and sports marketing giant that over the past two years fell victim to the catastrophic slump in both sectors, today finally sold legendary motor sports circuit Brands Hatch but said it remained committed to Silverstone and the British grand prix.
Brands Hatch and three smaller motor racing circuits at Oulton Park, Cadwell Park and Snetterton have been sold to a new company called MotorSport Vision for an undisclosed sum.
The new company has been formed by Jonathan Palmer, who already owns the Bedford Autodrome and provides facilities for the corporate events market.
"We are absolutely committed to developing motor racing at the circuits and believe that through innovation and quality enhancement we can revitalise one of the UK's most exciting sports," said Mr Palmer, whose career has involved stints as a race driver and commentator.
Interpublic, which was built up by advertising legend Frank Lowe who stepped down as chairman last year, diversified into sports marketing and sponsorship in a big way in the mid 1990s but its investment in motor sport proved a millstone around the company's neck.
Coupled with the advertising slump and allegations of accounting irregularities at its McCann Erickson division, the group has seen its share value slashed by more than two thirds in the past two years.
It announced in April last year that it was formally putting the circuits up for sale and appointed Goldman Sachs to handle the process. However, it has decided to retain the rights to the British grand prix at Silverstone after committing millions of pounds to upgrading facilities at the site.
Brands Hatch and three smaller circuits made a small profit individually, but that was more than offset by the £20m plus required to invest in Silverstone and rights payments associated with staging the annual British grand prix. Interpublic also failed in a long running battle to upgrade facilities at the Brands Hatch site so it could also stage the flagship event.
Interpublic said today its interest in British motor sport would now focus exclusively on the Silverstone circuit and that Brands Hatch Circuits, the subsidiary formerly called Ocatagon Motorsports, would change its name again to Silverstone Motorsport.
Brands Hatch Circuits boss Andrew Waller, who will remain with IPG to look after its remaining motor sport interests, said: "We are delighted that Jonathan Palmer and his team are acquiring the four circuits and believe that our sale to his company will help to safeguard the future interests of UK motor sport."