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DATE News (chronologically)
03/30/09
f1
Brawn Virgin deal a measly $250K per race UPDATE (GMM)  Despite the Melbourne fanfare and the prominent presence of Sir Richard Branson, Brawn GP's Virgin deal could theoretically end after the Malaysian grand prix this weekend.

SportsPro magazine reports that, despite Branson indicating that full naming sponsorship and team ownership is a likelihood, the current deal is only for the Australia-Malaysia double header at the rate of $250,000 a race.

That deal, however, is likely only in its current form due to the lateness of its completion, with Branson signing it before boarding a plane to Melbourne, having cut short a family skiing holiday.

The Virgin logos on the winning Mercedes-powered cars, meanwhile, had been sent by email from London and cut into vinyl stickers in the Australian city.

Billionaire Branson admitted at Albert Park that the agreement is likely to be extended shortly, unless the newly winning team gets a better offer.

"We are a virgin bride, and they may find that someone comes in and offers them something even better before we marry up with them," he said.

03/29/09 Virgin Group, the parent company of various business interests owned by Sir Richard Branson around the world, has signed what is believed to be an initial two-race deal with Ross Brawn’s new Brawn GP Formula One team at the rate of US$250,000 a race until a more permanent deal can be finalized.

The deal was signed by the team's commercial supremo David Butler on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix, won by Brawn GP's Jenson Button. Branson cut short a skiing holiday to fly to Melbourne on one of his own planes to witness the team's first race. A pdf for the Virgin logo was sent by email from London and vinyl stickers cut in Melbourne to be mounted on the car. There was no time to modify the team’s uniforms.

The deal, which saw three Virgin stickers on what turned out to be the race-winning cars, is likely to be extended in a fresh agreement in two weeks. The agreement may see Virgin Group take a substantial shareholding in the team and also become its title sponsor. It is unlikely, however, to see the team’s car rebranded as a Virgin for the 2009 season although that may be possible for 2010 onwards.

Whatever deal is eventually signed, it will be for a small amount of money thought to be less than US$10 million. The team was earlier thought to be offering the title sponsorship free to any company that committed to sponsor it in 2010; its 2009 budget of US$146.5 million is already fully funded. Earlier Qatar Airways turned down the chance to sponsor the team for free in 2009.

Branson admitted when he arrived in Melbourne it had been an opportunistic deal fuelled by the fact that the team was desperate and no one else had come forward. He was persuaded by the performance in testing of the car. After that Branson sniffed the chance of a favorable deal as he said: "We've thrown something together in a very quick period of time. We signed it four hours before I got on the plane. We would have come here with a slightly more complete deal, I suspect, if we'd had a bit more time. We've come here with the first stage part of the deal, which is meant in two stages, and we will see what happens over the next two or three weeks."

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