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Formula 1’s first black team owner comes and then disappears

Arrows team owner Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim at the 1999 Formula One Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne.

Arrows team owner Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim at the 1999 Formula One Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne.
image: Mark Thompson / Allsport (beautiful pictures)

With the promise of $125 million, royal lineage and sponsorship from his own T-Minus brand, Prince Malik Ado-Ibhrahim became Formula 1’s first Black team owner when bought a majority stake in the longstanding Arrows team. Then, with half a season left, this Nigerian prince disappeared.

(Editor’s Note: This week marks the release Racing with abundant energy: How Rogue sponsors won formula 1 to go by Elizabeth Blackstock and Alanis King. To celebrate a book that started as a blog on Jalopnik, the Blackstock co-author is covering the history of some of F1’s other dubious sponsors. These donors are mentioned in the book, but not in depth. Racing with abundant energy available through McFarland, Amazon, Burnedand Eurospan for international buyers.)

Perhaps one of the most confusing parts of Ado-Ibrahim’s relationship with the Arrows is the team’s lack of research on this man. While he notes that he studied business in London and California, loved to play polo, and that he competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with pseudonym, there are few public records that identify him as a prince or a known motorsport enthusiast. Arrows captured Ado-Ibrahim’s net worth at face value, thanks in large part to his coming to Morgan Grenfell Private Equity (MGPE), an investment banking firm. When he promised the team $125 million the equivalent of a third of the team’s shares, the Arrows jumped on the money.

Further confusion came when T-Minus, the brand that would go on to make up Arrows machines in 1999, actually had no products for sale. Ado-Ibrahim claims to be a maker of energy drinks (and those drinks already exist), but it’s also a brand that stands for whatever the founder wanted it to be – oh cars, clothes, motorbikes, etc – for a huge sum of money. How T-Minus made money outside of those projects, however, is unclear.

The Arrows team has existed since 1978, when a group of former Shadow team employees joined together to form an F1 team in three months. It has never been a particularly successful outfit, with no wins and nine podiums in its 18 years of existence – but its own origins come with a bit of notoriety. One of the co-founders, Franco Ambrosio, was jailed in 1978 for financial irregularities, and the Shadow team also tried to sue the Arrows for stealing its intellectual property.

After being principally sponsored by Footwork, Arrows was acquired by Tom Walkinshaw when the man took a 51% stake in the team in 1996. Walkinshaw was successful in motorsport and also contributed to the F1 title. Michael Schumacher’s first – so his legacy is considered a masterpiece.

However, the fact that Walkinshaw was able to easily buy the majority of the team, shows that they are struggling financially and that exactly never got better. Walkinshaw flirted with Zakspeed, a German racing team, in late 1998, because Zakspeed offered the team $40 million. Unfortunately, terms could not be reached, and Walkinshaw instead turned to Prince Malik Ado-Ibrahim and T-Minus.

Ado-Ibrahim ended up buying a 25% stake, taking with him MGPE to buy a 45% stake – and to help get the Arrows team out of further financial trouble.

After a single point in the opening race of the 1999 season, the Arrows fell. drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Toranosuke Takagi were both more retired by the time they finished the events, and de la Rosa’s only point for his sixth place was all the team had to overcome in a rainy season.

Arrow racer Toranosuke Takagi at the 1999 European Grand Prix.

Arrow racer Toranosuke Takagi at the 1999 European Grand Prix.
image: PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP (beautiful pictures)

It became clear that the T-Minus franchise wouldn’t offer much to the Arrows team, and by the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ado-Ibrahim had disappeared from the Formula 1 arena. Walkinshaw, desperate for funds, turned to MGPE to provides a long-term loan to cover the costs of running a Formula 1 team.

Its downside, however, is that so much money has been transferred to the MGPE that there is very little left in stock to develop the actual vehicle. Thus begins a vicious cycle where Walkinshaw needs to borrow more money to keep the team afloat while his payments continue to grow. And, to insult the injury, MGPE and Eurobet, a betting company owned by MGPE, both lost millions of dollars due to their involvement with the team.

In late 2001, Walkinshaw funded the Arrows out of his own pocket. He quickly flirted with Red Bull, who wanted to buy the team immediately, but MGPE won’t sign a buy unless Red Bull also bought his 45% stake in the team. Combine that with some drivers suing the team and the FIA’s rejection of the team’s race application for the 2003 season, and the Arrows are over. The team is dead.

The team’s A23 framework and all its intellectual property rights were purchased by the Minardi team. Subsequently, both the Minardi and Arrows intellectual property rights were sold to Red Bull and Aguri Suzuki. Aguri Suzuki became Super Aguri F1, taking over Arrows headquarters but ran only two full seasons and a third season before it ended. The properties are still owned by Formtech Composites today, but the Arrows’ shadow never returned to F1. Walkinshaw’s reputation never recovered, haunting him until his death in 2010 at the age of 64 after he was forced to liquidate his entire racing team.

But Ado-Ibrahim did not completely disappear. Instead, he turned to the NASCAR scene – and quickly got into legal trouble. Are from Evil behavior:

But while the Arrows disappeared from the track, Malik did not. In 2008, he had to stand trial for stealing money that was given to him to develop the career of a young NASCAR driver. Malik has been cleared, but cannot leave the Texas prison where he is being held because he is required to apply for a $35,000 bail in connection with several perjury charges because of his false statements. accused in the lead up to the trial.

After his final debut, Ado-Ibrahim returned to Nigeria, where he has remained ever since. In 2016, he joined with Nigus Greenenergya Nigerian company dedicated to recycled energy. Ado-Ibrahim became a proponent for tram in Nigeria, and recently, he has emerged as a Nigerian presidential candidate. After all, why are you just a prince when you can also be a president?

“Nothing frightens me in selecting candidates from APC or PDP” – Malik Ado-Ibrahim


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