Lotus chief rules out football investment

LONDON - Lotus Formula One chief Tony Fernandes has ruled out investing in an English football club in the near future following his failed attempt to buy West Ham United last month.

The team principal of Lotus Racing has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs, including cash-stricken Portsmouth, and League One Norwich City.

The Malaysian businessman and founder of the AirAsia airline was involved in negotiations to buy West Ham before the London club was sold to former Birmingham City owners David Gold and David Sullivan.

Asked on Friday if he was ruling out investing in English football in the near future, Fernandes told Reuters: "Yes, I think so.

"Everything happens for the best and maybe the best was not for West Ham but to focus on motor racing for the moment."

Speaking at the launch of Lotus's car in London, Fernandes recognised the danger in over-extending his commitments beyond motorsport.

"There is always a danger (in spreading your resources too thinly)," he said. "You have to pick the right time to do the right things. I think there are huge opportunities in sport.

"It is going through a little state of flux and the easy money is gone so sensible businessmen will come in and give their money to the right places and monetise those assets."

Fernandes said there were still opportunities for investors to profit from sport.

"People aren't getting tired of watching sport, it is just the financial way it's been run that has caused the problems," he said.

"There is no lack of appetite for going to watch sport, in fact I think it is probably the best time."


Lotus are one of four new teams joining Formula One for the 2010 season that gets underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14.

The Lotus brand is returning to the grid for the first time since 1994 with drivers Jarno Trulli of Italy and Finn Heikki Kovalainen behind the wheel.

The team are without a principal sponsor after Malaysian oil company Petronas opted to back Mercedes.

Fernandes, though, is confident they can secure sufficient finance and said the relationship between sponsors and Formula One was changing.

"Today sponsors will see a real car," he said. "They will see the enormous expenditure that we put out there.

"People have said to me today that ours was the biggest launch of any car this season. That shows the power we have and I am sure we will attract the right sort of people to come in and support us.

"It is not just about putting stickers on the cars, there are many other ways of getting revenue. We don't want to say too much at the moment but we have other sponsors in the pipeline," added Fernandes.