D.he “Green Hell”, that was not the Nürburgring in the past few weeks, but the area around it. Parts of the flooded regions and destroyed towns are close to the traditional race track. During this time, the ring itself developed into a focal point for people, a haven of help. First in the paddock, and later in a spectator parking lot, the helpers set up their “provision center”: machines, tools, vehicles, generators, tents, mountains of clothing – everything that was urgently needed found and will find its place there.
On Thursday, however, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg reminded the state government in Mainz of the less edifying aspects of the racetrack’s recent past. That the ring was funded with around half a billion euros for many years and yet could not be saved from bankruptcy. Even more: If the supreme European court has its way, the sale to the automotive supplier Capricorn must be checked again in 2014.
The European Commission wrongly decided on the sale to Capricorn without a formal investigation procedure. The company of the Düsseldorf entrepreneur Robertino Wild had paid 77 million euros. Two other bidders were not considered. After years of litigation, the two were now largely right. The ECJ overturned an earlier judgment of the General Court of the European Union, which confirmed the Commission’s actions. Today the ring no longer belongs to Capricorn, but to a holding owned by Russian Viktor Charitonin. When the clammy medium-sized Düsseldorf company could no longer pay, the oligarch was there and bought the ring – a debacle for the state government.
The establishment of an adventure and business park failed spectacularly
Under the former country father Kurt Beck, those responsible in Mainz had tried in vain to upgrade the structurally weak region and the ring with an adventure and business park. But the promised private financing of discos, amusement parks, convention centers and hotels failed spectacularly. After the search for private donors had failed, the country had to finance the expansion itself for around 300 million euros. The bankruptcy in 2012 could not be averted despite the effort.
The highest European court accuses the EU Commission of wrongly assuming that Capricorn’s purchase offer was guaranteed by a financing commitment from Deutsche Bank. This raises “doubts about the non-discriminatory nature of the bidding process”. Because a significantly higher offer from the bidder Nexovation was ruled out precisely because of the lack of proof of financing. Brussels now has to examine whether the sale to Capricorn also involved state aid. The ECJ did not object to the funds provided by the state government to the former owner of the Nürburgring. In that regard, the Court rejected the complaints. The two plaintiffs could not be more different.
On the one hand, Nexovation, an American technology company that involved US congressmen in the dispute over the ring. In addition, the association “Yes to the Nürburgring”, in which, according to its own statements, 360 private individuals and representatives of the automobile associations had come together. Your concern is to maintain the route. The chairman of the association sees his criticism of the sales process confirmed by the decision. “We cannot understand why the last instance had to be sought in order to correctly classify the buyers’ obviously inadequate financing situation. The sales process has now finally been exposed as a farce, ”says Dieter Weidenbrück.
Matthias Nordmann, lawyer for Dentons, a law firm commissioned by Nexovation, said the ball was now in the field of the commission. In view of the clear words, this will not be able to avoid the opening of a formal investigation procedure. If the Commission comes to the conclusion that the buyer did not acquire the ring on market terms and that unlawful state aid was thus received, the old sales contract is null and void. Then there would have to be a new bidding process.
The state government did not comment on the judgment until Thursday afternoon. At the moment there are more important things. Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced another visit to the flood areas this Friday. Then the Nürburgring shows itself again from its best side.