Octagon US parent IPG drops sale bombshell

The fate of the Foster’s British Grand Prix and Octagon Motorsports UK hangs in the balance as US parent Interpublic Group (IPG) strives to quit its loss-making motorsports business.

The fate of the Foster’s Bri- tish Grand Prix and Octagon Motorsports UK hangs in the balance as US parent Interpublic Group (IPG) strives to quit its loss-making motorsports business. Octagon lost £45m for the year ended 31 December 2002, according to figures from IPG. The US company has appointed independent advisers to “evaluate exit strategies relative to its motor sports assets” worth $70m (£45m). IPG chairman and chief executive David Bell said: “We have neither the need nor the desire to be involved in venue-based ownership.” An Octagon sale would hit UK corporate hospitality and event firms that receive a large percentage of their earnings from events at Octagon venues. Octagon owns racing circuits Brands Hatch, Cadwell Park, Snetterton, and Oulton Park, as well as having a 15-year contract to run the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which is owned by the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Sellers Hospitality is the official hospitality partner for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, selling more than 7,500 packages last year. Managing director Charles Webb said: “The Octagon sale would markedly affect our business. It’s a concern, but it’s not something we can directly influence.” In February 2002, caterer Letheby & Christopher won a three-year contract worth £15m to provide conference and banqueting services at Silverstone and supply hospitality at Octagon events. The company refused to say how its business would be affected by IPG’s decision. Meanwhile, it is “business as usual” at Octagon while IPG decides on its fate. An Octagon spokeswoman said: “It doesn’t affect us at the moment. We have an operational commitment to continue running the business.”

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