Russian trying to sell Midland-Jordan team

UPDATE #2 Eddie Irvine was wandering around the F1 paddock on Friday in Monaco chatting with various team owners and introducing them to a wealthy Russian who is considering buying a Formula 1 team for Irvine to run. Irvine's mysterious friend is none other than Roustam Tariko, a 43-year-old Russian who is estimated to be worth something in the region of $870m.

Tariko is the chairman of Russian Standard Bank but has a background in the vodka trade. Tariko started out importing expensive chocolates into Russia in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He then switched to importing luxury alcohol brands for the Russian market, selling Martini, Johnnie Walker and Bacardi to the new rich of Russia. In 1998 he launched his own brand of vodka, called Russian Standard and it quickly became one of the country's best selling brands, with sales of around $75m a year. Not content with this he then bought an inactive bank called Agroopttorgbank and renamed it the Russian Standard Bank and started offering consumer loans in Russia in 2000. His plan was to create a brand and offer a variety of different services, as a sort of Russian version of Richard Branson's Virgin. In the middle of last year it was announced that BNP Paribas, France's second largest bank, was going to buy the Russian Standard Bank for around $300m. Soon after the deal was agreed, however, Tariko went cold on the deal and appeared to change his mind and the deal has since fallen apart.

Tariko controls his empire through a British Virgin Islands company called Roust Holdings Ltd. The word is that Tariko will buy Alex Shnaider out of Jordan.

05/19/05 Eddie Irvine is in Monaco to discuss the possibility of buying Jordan, the rumor mill is yelling. The former Ferrari and Jaguar driver, who made his F1 debut for team founder Eddie Jordan, is reportedly backed by an unnamed Russian businessman. Earlier, separate speculation hinted that Russian-Canadian Alex Shnaider regrets buying the Silverstone based operation.

Indeed, he narrowly averted a recent winding up petition courtesy of an unpaid creditor, and stalled on due payments for the Brackley wind tunnel to the point that Eddie Jordan ordered locks to be changed.

Irvine, 39, stayed away from the F1 paddock since he retired in 2002, but – this year – has now shown up at Imola, Barcelona, and (on Sunday) Monte Carlo. He appeared on a recent Irish rich-list as wealthier even than countryman Eddie Jordan, who sold the team last season. 05/19/05 The word on the street in Monaco is that Jordan F1 owner Alex Shnaider is trying to get rid of the team, after just a few months of ownership. It seems that Shnaider is not very keen on pouring large sums of money into the team and we hear that he is in the process of trying to sell the operation to another Russian businessman. The big question being asked in the paddock at Monaco was which of the Russian new rich will be taking up the burden of running the team which was founded by Eddie Jordan.

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