Archive for the ‘Random & Anything Else’ Category

Society “Yes to the Nürburgring” thinks lease should be null and void

Another entry in regards to the Nürburgring shenanigans and in support of the great work of Mike and Save The Ring. German newspaper Rhein Zeitung, who are doing a great job reporting about all the developments at the Ring, have published another article of which an English version can be found below. Please keep supporting StR – the media and others are obviously listening and this story is far from over – if anything, it just seems to be getting more interesting:

Society “Yes to the Nürburgring” thinks lease should be null and void

Nurburgring : The Society “Yes to the Nürburgring” which is currently calling for 1.6 million Euro in  investments in the Nürburgring to be returned, will definitely also submit a complaint to the European Commission. The society sees a violation of procurement law and is of the opinion that the Nurburgring lease should be null and void due to actions constituting aiding and abetting.

A press release issued by the law firm working for the society states that it is their goal to “use all available means to put a stop to the undesirable developments at the Nurburgring”. The state of  Rhineland-Palatinate and  Nürburgring Ltd, it is argued, were in breach of  key provisions of EU law by putting in place the privately owned Nürburgring Automotive GmbH and allowing the company run by Kai Richter and Jörg Lindner to be in charge of all economic activities at the Nurburgring.  The Society has also commissioned a legal opinion by Regensburg law professor Jürgen Kühling for this purpose.

Two MEPs, Rebecca Harms (Green Party / EFA) and Werner Langen (CDU), have already asked EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia to investigate the project last year.The Dorint hotel chain has already taken legal action in regards to the way the contract was awarded.
An online petition “Save The Ring”, aimed at  Almunia, has already gathered around 19.000 signatures. The Wirtschaftswoche (Business Week) Newspaper has just reported that it was regarded as virtually certain in Brussels that the EU Competition Commission will initiate main examination proceedings.

Doubts about the approach find support in the Kühling-Report and the analysis by assigned law firm Frey. Conclusion: In connection with the project “Nürburgring 2009″ and the establishment of the Nürburgring Automotive GmbH it has “come to clear violations of European state aid and public procurement law”.

State aids were granted that, under EU law, would have required the European Commission to be notified so these could be considered by it.  If this was omitted, so the society argues, it means that any underlying contracts are null and void. The lease contract between the state-owned company that owns the Ring and the Automotive GmbH which operates it would thereby be void.

The expert witness also presents a second reason for this: The state owned  Nürburgring Ltd was in breach of  European procurement law as it did not publicly advertise or put out to tender the operation of the race tracks and non-motorsport related activities.

As the blog 20382.com reports, mail has already arrived at the state-owned company based in Otto-Flimm street – from Otto Flimm himself. The chairman of the society “Yes to the Nürburgring”, and previous president of the ADAC (Germany’s biggest motoring organisation), is asking for 1.6325 million Euro to be returned. This amount was invested into safety measures along the Nordschleife with the aim of promoting grassroots motor sports. The society now thinks that exactly this aim can not be guaranteed anymore due to the recent developments.

Nurburgring Drama: The case of the CST – Kai Richter really cashed in at the Ring.

Another entry that has nothing to do with what I usually do but focuses on the Nurburgring again instead. If you followed the whole scandal surrounding the project at the Ring, then you will by now be familiar with the name Kai Richter, the..er…. ‘businessman’  who now runs the place – very much into the ground by the look of things. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then please visit Save The Ring or the STR Facebook Page for more info.

The German Rhein Zeitung has just published a detailed report on new Nürburgring operator Kai Richter and the ring°card introduction at the Ring. Much of it evolves around a secret report by the National Audit Office that has been leaked to the media – the report is 50 pages long, so not sure if I can find the time to translate it all, but this article gives you all the most important bits.

The original article was of course in German, but below is an English version so more people can find out what’s going on and why Kai Richter must be send packing if there is to be any hope of the Nurburgring being kept alive as the world famous venue for petrolheads from all around the globe.

Bloggers, media peeps and anyone else: feel free to copy, link, share or do whatever you want with the below English version – the more people read it, the better! It’s not exactly a short article, so grab a coffee, light a cigarette and learn how Herr Richter lined his pockets at the Ring:

Ring Drama: The case of the CST – Kai Richter really cashed in at the Ring.

RingticketRhineland-Palatinate: The story about the recent Nurburgring scandal is already filling volumes. There are stories of bounced cheques for millions of Euros and of exploding costs. Stories on how a finance minister had to resign and how a disgraced CEO was chased out of town.

But little has yet been known about a company with the complicated name “Cash Settlement & Ticketing GmbH” (CST). This company could be described as a kind of blind spot in the public eye.

That is about to change – thanks to a confidential draft of an audit report by the National Audit Office. The CST appears in it as a synonym for the waste of public money outside of any control.

In this explosive expertise something is taking shape that could be called the “Kai Richter System” – relating to the business man from Dusseldorf who has become known for a certain business instinct at the Eiffel race track: an instinct for contract structures that mean he is cashing in while the government is taking all the risks and providing the majority of the financing – to the disadvantage of the tax payer.

What led to this aberration? The original business idea seemed as simple as clever: the Nurburgring should be run cash-free. To do this, every visitor did – and still does – get a so-called “ringcard”, a prepaid card that can be topped up and acts as currency and entry ticket at the Nurburgring. Advantages for the Ring operators: No labour intensive cashier systems or having deal with small change every day: a sleek, automated system that also records visitor numbers.

Investment in ticket machines and required software would soon pay for itself, the ring-leaders thought in 2007. Especially since they were anticipating a huge number of visitors. The advantages for visitors to the Ring: virtually none. For operators of such non-cash payment systems often have ugly ulterior motives. They calculate that visitors won’t use up the whole balance on their cards and that any remaining amount will simply lapse. The Ring operators were brazenly building on this effect, as the secret draft of the audit report shows – but more on that later.

Screenshot of Kai Richter on the Mediinvest websiteTo be able to really cash in at the cash-free Ring, the afore mentioned Cash Settlement & Ticketing GmbH (CST) was founded on the 7 February 2008. Shareholders: To 50 percent the almost state-owned Nürburgring GmbH, to 50 percent the “Düsseldorf MI-Websolutions” and later the “MI-Beteiligungs-und Verwaltungs-GmbH (MI)”. Now the previously mentioned Kai Richter comes into play. The businessman from Dusseldorf who was already active in his role of “private investor” at the Ring. He owned 80% of the MI and served as managing director. Otherwise, only a man named Klaus Koenig was involved, about whom almost nothing is known.

So what is it that the National Audit Office is now criticizing? The analysis of the CST has about 50 pages, but only one message: In Rhineland-Palatinate, it seems worthwhile to do business with the state. Kai Richter fleeced the nearly state-owned Nürburgring GmbH for years and in the most incredible ways. All general rules of commerce went overboard. The canny investor used a network of companies around the CST in order to financially milk the cow called Nürburgring.

The preliminary report investigates the entire CST-complex, ending with the reorganization of the company that came to a preliminary conclusion in December 2010. The draft report has been in internal circulation at the state government for around four months. Allegedly, the final report has also already been issued. Contents: unknown. But the draft report alone is explosive enough. The Audit Office shows how unnecessary companies were founded and how services were bought in at vastly inflated prices. It were mostly Kai Richter and his business partner who went to benefit from this inflated structure. Especially during the era of Walter Kafitz and Ingolf Deubel strict cost control became a rarity. Deubel, hailed as a financial genius, served as Finance Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate until his resignation in July 2009, and also as chairman of the board of the Nürburgring GmbH. Walter Kafitz was chief executive at the Ring until his employment was teminated without notice in December 2009.

The report about the CST allows for the conclusion that – for whatever reason – the two main protagonists of the Nürburgring scandal left all security measures aside. Management plans were missing, a solid controlling wasn’t in place anyway, orders didn’t go out to tender as they should have, and estimates of visitor numbers were unfounded. An economical blind-flight without comparison.

The Supervisory Board of the Nürburgring GmbH, with the exception on Ingolf Deubel, appeared to have been sidelined and was badly informed. Consistent control? Not a chance. But what did the audit office criticize in particular? Here are a few striking examples:

No feasibility or viability studies: When the CST was founded, it was estimated that the whole cash-free payment system would cost up to 5 million Euros to put in place. Nevertheless, neither the technical feasibility nor the economic benefits were considered. So far, pre-paid systems like this one were mainly used in football stadiums – such as in Kaiserslautern, a venue that can not be compared with the Nurburgring. A costly birth defect: The Audit Office recommends to abolish the card system again. Even if things go well, the system will generate losses of up to 9.29 million Euros until 2014.

Business partners not checked: During the foundation of the CST, the Supervisory Board of the Nürburgring GmbH was only casually informed that not Richter’s well known company MediInvest would be the partner, but a completely unknown company called ‘MI-Websolution GmbH’. The financial statements of ‘MI-Websolution GmbH’ for 2005 and 2007 show cash reserves of less than 2000 Euros. Despite the Audit Office urging hard to choose co-partners carefully in previous reports , there was no verification of financial capacity or relevant skills at ‘MI-Websolution’. It shows how Richter could juggle at will with companies and shareholdings without anyone ever taking a closer look at him.

Cheaper alternatives were not considered: The Audit Office clearly states that the CST (with Richter as general manager) was totally unnecessary. Because a company called Payment Solution AG, an expert in non-cash systems, later took over the management of the CST. The Munich based company also offers complete solutions but there are no records that the supervisory board of the Nürburgring GmbH ever enquired about them.

Lack of information: Ring-CEO Kafitz did not inform the supervisory board of the Nürburgring GmbH that it had acquired the full funding of the nearly insolvent CST since April 2009. A clear breach of the founding resolution that required a 50:50 approval ratio. Up until September 2010 the Supervisory Board was barely informed about anything. An auditor commented on the general work of the board: “The board was basically satisfied with oral statements and did not take action on its own accord.”

Questionable business practices with remaining funds: In October 2009, one-and-a-half years after the CSt was founded, the supervisory board of the Nürburgring GmbH received a business plan for the first time, ie, a record of profitability. The plan did not only – highly unrealisticically – project that 1.5 million cards will be given out during every fiscal year, but it was also calculated that 40% of customers would forfeit a remaining balance of on average 2.75 euros per card – but visitors can claim back the amounts over a period of four years.

Chaotic reservations: Although Richter’s company Mediinvest was responsible for business acquisition, and received 54.000 Euros for this during 2009 alone, an additional accountant and another public accountant were hired by Richter himself in 2009. Unauthorized charges for this until September 2010: around 71 000 euros. In addition, the accounting was so chaotic that many transactions were posted twice. About 190.000 Euro were booked as “Gone Astray”, while just under 150.000 Euro were booked under “Incorrect Account”.

More waste: CST Managing Director Richter arranged vastly overpriced hourly rates for CST’s commercial administration (50 €) with Mediinvest, a company also owned by Richter. A similar case: Richter’s Mediinvest arranged an over-priced, long-term, and non-cancelable advertising contract with a company called “Jung Produktion GmbH” – a company on which Richter’s Mediinvest holds 50%. Volume of this contract: 150.000 Euros. “Jung Produktion GmbH” also earned a sizeable amount doing “project management” for two office-container plants, a service that was already included with the container company. Richter also channeled inflated rental incomes from warehouses to a comanpy called “Richter & Jung GbR”.

Irresponsible spending: Richter hired a company called “UBK GmbH”, an IT company, without putting the process out to tender and without task description. A blank cheque worth 290.000 €.

Also questionable: Two employees ran up phone bills totalling 13.000 Euros in just three months.

And even worse: The CST could have saved 720.000 Euros if the management had ordered only 500.000 payment cards in 2008, as recommended by Payment Solutions AG, instead of the 1.5 million cards that were ordered for use with the system. Only a fraction of the 1.5 million cards were actually used.

And finally: there were two directors at CST: Richter and a representative of the Nürburgring GmbH. Only one of them received 2,500 Euros per month. Who was that? Kai Richter, of course…

Jalopnik & other car blogs well and truly had in Top Gear joke

Ok, again not photo related, I admit. Little time at the moment, so I’ll just misuse my little site for some blog-type-content-stuff and get to photos again later. Here’s a story that caught my eye, and I admit it, I fell for it at first:

jalopnik top gear speeding prankJalopnik and some other car blogs published a story the other day that had as its headline “More speeding means safer highways“. Having fought against the introduction of a speed limit on the Isle of Man in the past and being a general petrol head, my heart jumped – could it be that someone said the unthinkable, came up with some miraculous study that proved speeding is good? Well, no…

The study referred to is here: HRAR_REPORT243 – it argues that drivers who put their foot down are safer due to increased adrenaline levels and faster reactions.

jalopnik australia speeding study top gear prankA closer look at the document quickly outs it as what it really is – a prank by the guys at Top Gear. Gotta be. No other way. How else would you explain the rather strange names of the researchers and the countless car manufacturers names in the reference section?

Have to hand it to them – well done, and no doubt it will feature in either the magazine or be part of an episode in the near future.

jalopnik australia speeding top gear prankMaybe stories like this show us that in our brave new web 2.0 world, where the border between a blog and  news site are completely blurred now, some more focus should be kept on editorial control.

Click on the pictures for bigger versions of the sections that give the prank away.

edit: Chief Jalopnologist Ray Wert just mentioned a good point: It’s clearly a prank, but who says it’s really Top Gear behind it? Mystery time! (Answers on a poastcard, please)

Save The Ring – Nurburgring in trouble

Something unrelated to my normal activities but important enough to get a mention. The famous Nurburgring circuit in Germany is in a bit of trouble after the German government built a huge Leisure Park there that was based on false visitor numbers, shady deals and other results of incompetence. Please visit http://www.savethering.org for full info and to find out how you can help to prevent one of the most famous tracks in the world from quite literally being destroyd.

Being German, I also thought it’d be a good idea to put English subtitles on a number of reports from German TV, so more people can understand the whole background and just how wrong things went there.

Number one is a 45min documentary explaining the whole situation – part one below, rest on my youtube channel:

The second video is from last week and provides an update on the situation. Includes Sabine Schmitz and SaveTheRing – please watch and share!

Cammag 2010 at St Johns

Boxing Day means it’s time for the yearly game of Cammag again. So at 2pm, a magnificent team from the North lined up against a miserable line-up from the South to defend the trophy that so rightfully resided in the North for the last year – sadly without success. The South won 3-2. How? Nobody’s quite sure, but apparently they did.

Isle of Man Snow Video – Douglas, December 2010

Just a short video from Douglas today:


Watch in higher quality on YouTube

Isle of Man Snow Pictures – Douglas, December 2010

Quite a bit of the white stuff came down today (Saturday, 18 December), so reason enough to go for a wander around:

TT Prints – The Perfect Christmas Present!

Amadeus TT Prints at the Duke ShopJust a little bit of shameless self promotion – has to be done once in a while. As you might know, a few of my pictures are available as lovely canvas prints from Duke Video and with Christmas fast approaching, they would certainly make a lovely present for any road racing or TT fan.

You can see, and of course order, all of them on the Duke Video Website. If you happen to be on the Isle of Man and would like to see one in real life before committing to buy, then why not stop by at the Duke Video shop in strand street? Grandstand, Quarry Bends and Mountain Road canvas prints are proudly on display there – just look to the right when you walk in.

I really do like them and think they look brilliant, but them I’m probably Duke Video Shop in Douglasslightly biased here. Each canvas is covered with a matt varnish seal giving the added benefit of UV and scratch/water protection. Only the best inks and material are used to ensure these special art pieces are of fantastic quality. The canvas is stretched over stretcher bar designed specifically to enhance the look of the canvases and these make great talking pieces on any living room wall – they are eye catching, if I may say so.

Just in case your budget is a little lower (canvas prints are always a little more pricey, but they are long lasting pieces of art and really worth it) or you would like multiple prints for multiple loved ones and the canvas version would blow your Christmas budget until 2015, then you can always drop me a line to get your hands on a photo print. I do produce very limited runs, usually in 10×15 format that fits well into a nice A3 frame, and these certainly won’t break the bank. More info about them is available on my prints page.

Return top