So if you’re reading this blog, you’ve likely at least caught wind of the Save The Ring campaign or at least heard some rumblings about bankruptcy and sale of the Nürburgring. You may wonder how that works and who owns the Nürburgring.
Like many questions, this one has a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is a German specialty auto parts company called Capricorn owns The Ring. They were declared the winning bidder in a sale following the government having put the Nürburgring in bankruptcy.
That’s where things stand today, but there are outstanding legal challenges to the sale to Capricorn and the long answer goes all the way back to events that started in 2004. However, to truly understand what’s going on, let’s go back to the beginning.
In 1925, construction began on The Nürburgring. It was conceived by the government as a public works project to bring jobs to one of the poorest regions of Germany. So, from the beginning The Ring was publicly funded and owned. In addition to racing, since its opening in 1927, there have been touristenfahrten, public driving sessions, that gave the people access to what their taxes paid for. During these sessions it is considered to be a one-way, toll road with no speed limit.
In 2004, the Rheinland-Pfalz government and private investors formed Nürburgring GmbH and announced a plan to add amenities like four star hotels and restaurants that would make The Ring a vacation destination to draw more than just hard core automotive enthusiasts. The plan specified 40 million Euros in public funds and 160 million from private investors.
In 2007, the plan gained approval, but the public contributions had risen to 135 million Euros with 80 million coming from the private firm Mediinvest. Questions are also beginning to arise about the costs and viability of the project in the media.
In 2009, the new leisure park and other new facilities are opened. Over the two years to get to this point, many additional questions have been raised about money laundering, project mismanagement, bad checks and a public bank investment in the private investors company when the private funds failed to materialize.
Once open, the new facilities failed to attract the promised visitors. Even though the private planners estimated visitors and money didn’t materialize, at the end of 2009, the government announces that the track will be rented to some of the same private investors that have put The Nürburgring in this predicament.
This rental agreement is finally terminated in early 2012 in the wake of more criticisms and allegations of various improprieties with how things have been handled. At this point, the costs officially stand at about 330 million Euros with most of that coming from the government. However, additional aid from the government seems to put the total costs at about 524 million Euros with no explanation as to the 194 million Euro gap. The EU is also now investigating the government aid which may be illegal.
About a year later, in February, 2013, the government declares The Ring bankrupt and puts it up for sale. As a result of the mismanagement to this point, a public asset could end up in private hands. If you’re a German taxpayer or Ring enthusiast, you might, understandably, be a bit upset about this.
This brings us back to our opening statement about Capricorn being the current owner. They were announced to be the winning bidder, but as I stated at the beginning, there are questions and legal challenges in regards to that outcome. Up until the last minute, HIG Capital was rumored to be the winning bidder. They (and others) are challenging the award to Capricorn with claims that Capricorn didn’t have the capital required by the auction terms. In addition, Capricorn missed a payment to for the sale this summer which only adds to the questions.
So, as for most of the 21st century so far, drama abounds at The Ring. The good news is that this hasn’t prevented enthusiasts from enjoying the track and there’s been no indication that any potential private owner will curtail the public driving sessions or track days. As always, Green Hell Guides will continue to bring you the latest on any changes in the situation at The Ring.