No buyer for Donington Park lease means Wheatcrofts regain control

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarTuesday, December 29th, 2009

 
 

Control of Donington Park is set to be handed back to its owners after no buyer could be found who was prepared to take on the lease.

And the Wheatcroft family is now set to decide what the future will hold for the East Midlands racetrack.

Despite bullish words from administrator Nigel Price, of business recovery specialists Begbies Traynor, who claimed before Christmas to be in negotiations with a number of potential buyers, it has not proved possible to for him to strike a deal. Additionally, all staff have been made redundant.

His task cannot have been helped by the fact that the circuit is not currently in a usable condition, having been dug up in anticipation of redevelopment to F1 standards, only for the funding for that project to fail to materialise.

In the process it also lost two of the headline motorbike events for which it had become renowned, the British Superbike Championship and MotoGP.

Mr Price said that interest had remained even after the British Grand Prix was returned to Silverstone but added that “the onerous terms of the lease” meant it had been unattractive to those interested in re-establishing national racing.

The Wheatcroft family granted the 150-year lease to Simon Gillett’s company Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd in 2007, encouraged by the idea that Tom Wheatcroft’s dream of seeing Formula One return to the track could be realised.

The company signed a 10-year deal with Formula One promoter Bernie Ecclestone, later extended to 17 years, but was unable to raise the funding to redevelop the track to the necessary standard. It went into administration in November, with debts thought to total around £20 million.

Tom Wheatcroft, who almost single-handedly saved the track from dereliction in the 1970s, and was the guiding light behind its revival, died at the end of October a few days after it became apparent that the F1 project had failed.

In November Gillett claimed the circuit needed “one or two months’ work” to get it back to a “national standard” – but did not offer an opinion on how much the work would cost.

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