F1: Former Donington partner sues for £150,000

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, February 8th, 2009


Donington Park is being sued by a former partner in the business for reported damages of up to £150,000.

Lee Gill, who left the circuit’s management in September, two months after the deal to host the British Grand Prix from 2010 was struck, has filed court papers claiming he was dismissed from his post unfairly.

At the time his former partner Simon Gillett said that Mr Gill had left by mutual consent.

The Daily Mail has the full story:

Race to rescue the Formula 1 British Grand Prix

Gill’s unexpected departure so soon after the pair’s successful bid for the Grand Prix shocked the motor racing world. But last month, when asked about Gill’s departure, Gillett presented it as an agreed deal, saying: “The idea was to get us to a certain point.

“I would work on Formula 1 and the submission, he would work on running the business. When that was finished, there was no point in having two of us at the top of the pile. It was always agreed that when we got to that point, Lee would go on and focus on his other commitments.”

However, Gill claims that he should have been given 12 months’ notice of termination and is also owed holiday pay, salary, car allowance and other benefits amounting to more than £36,000, as well as claiming damages for breach of contract. Read full story here…

The implications of having to fund and fight this legal action at a point when money must be raised to stage the race and pay for the necessary improvements are only too clear.

The lawsuit adds a new problem to an already-lengthy list.

Gillett has promised to reveal details of a debenture scheme he says will fund the redevelopment at the end of March – something that may prove a tricky proposition in the current economic climate, and with the recent loss of Moto GP from the circuit’s calendar making the overall package it is able to offer less attractive.

Gill’s departure came coincidentally shortly after problems with the circuit’s management were highlighted by local police, including a failure to enforce age restrictions on selling alcohol at two events, and problems with runway safety at neighbouring East Midlands Airport.

And Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd was reported by The Telegraph as depositing annual accounts with Companies House showing a financial loss and a large amount of debt for the year in question, raising questions with independent auditors about its ability to stage the race.

But Gillett said no reports pertaining to 2008 had been filed and said he was “confused” about the source of the figures.

2 responses to “F1: Former Donington partner sues for £150,000”:

  1. Keith Collantine Says:

    February 9th, 2009 at 11:11 am

    I think the Mail is pushing old news with this lawsuit stuff – I’m sure I heard about it months ago.

    This paragraph in the piece caught my eye:

    Already progress looks dangerously off target – planning permission has only just been secured to redevelop the track and directors admit they have still to persuade investors to stump up the £40million that is likely to be needed to turn it into an acceptable home for motor sport’s premier event.

    Planning meetings don’t happen every week – I was under the impression the one they had in January was the earliest they were able to present at, given the deal was only revealed in July.

    We’ve been told the investment scheme will be explained next month. I’d like to see what he presents before judging him on it.

    There’s still a load of stuff I’m yet to be persuaded on about this, but they should at least give the man the benefit of the doubt.

  2. ljh Says:

    February 9th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    All points good ones, Keith, and duly taken, but at what point would you stop extending that courtesy? (This is meant as a genuine question and not point-scoring – I would be really interested to know the answer.)

    It’s not quite fair to liken this a property developer carving Windsor Castle up into exclusive holiday apartments and promising that future sales of said apartments will save the place from architectural ruin.

    But the British Grand Prix is a major piece of national heritage and its future is currently looking extremely uncertain. And that is because Ecclestone took the opportunity Simon Gillett handed him to move it to a venue that couldn’t become Grade 1 licensed without a shedload of work on a very tight timescale indeed in parlous economic times. That is, to put it politely, a bit of a gamble with something that is very precious to a lot of people.

    Our view has always been that we want to see the race secured above all else and Gillett would have our support if only we could be confident that it will be. However the redevelopment was always an extremely big ask and the problems appear to be stacking up. The council left itself a major get-out clause by reserving the right to veto the event if its planning was not satisfactory, something that went distinctly under-reported in January.

    At what point does the goodwill of fans towards a circuit that they can believe is going to look after them and the highlight of their racing year run out? At what point would you personally become worried about this – if the debenture details don’t stack up? If the building work falls behind schedule?

    When does it become fair to say: “This isn’t working – so what are we going to do?” And when should the FIA step in, if at all?

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