This is a story that resonates strongly with me. As an advisor to many people over the years, one of the most valued qualities I hear from CEO’s and business leaders is their need to find someone who will tell them how things ‘really’ are.

‘Yes Men’ are all too easy to acquire, and the higher you climb, the less likely anyone will actually tell you the whole truth.

Earlier in the week, I brought you news that motorsport writers Joe Saward and David Treymayne had joined the Board of Caterham Cars Group Limited, and we naturally wondered what these appointments implied – for Caterham and the role of such well-respected independent journalists.

Joe was kind enough to get in touch with me this morning, so I can now shed some light on the story behind their appointments.

Ever since Tony Fernandes arrived in Formula One, Joe has been impressed with his passion for the sport and what he believes in. “He is simply the most dynamic of characters to come into the sport in a long time, and the most ambitious new team owner for decades.”

An Audience with Joe. Picture courtesy of Sidepodcast.

Naturally, being the shrewd person that he is, Tony called upon Joe’s advice when the team was formed back in 2009 (even inviting ideas during his purchase of QPR last August). He wanted some experienced, independently-minded individuals with a bigger picture than your average automotive executive, who were also well connected in both the automotive and motorsport worlds and he seemed to think Joe and David would be good at that.

Over time he gained value from their insights and last Autumn made them directors of Caterham Group.

Although Joe was a vocal commentator in last year’s legal dispute between Group Lotus and 1Malaysia (for the rights to the Team Lotus name), he tells me this was all done-and-dusted long before the question of his directorship with Caterham Group arose, but clearly it’s natural that his insightful analysis of the situation would have further endeared him to Fernandes.

So what does this all mean for Joe and David’s journalistic independence? Well, first and foremost, nobody is truly independent – we all have our favourites either due to an overt relationship or because a person or brand’s values resonate with our own.

Joe assures me, thus far there is no specific role or responsibility attached to their appointment – he continues to share his views with Tony and has no direct association with Caterham F1 as a team.

But he also sees no reason to hide his appointment, believing that his understanding of the business helps him explain the sport more accurately to its fans.

In fact, all of the key journalists and influencers that I know of in Formula One, are also commercially involved with some aspect of the sport, whether that be broadcasting, hospitality, technology or promotion. That’s surely what we want from our writers and commentators – insight gained first-hand rather than as a result of gossip and Chinese whispers.

As for Tony Fernandes and the ever-growing Caterham Group – the quickest way to learn is to avoid repeating the mistakes of others.

Fernandes is learning. And learning from the kind of people known for telling the truth, warts and all.

Photos: courtesy of Caterham and Sidepodcast.

Written By

Steve Davies

Steve is an investor, private equity advisor and former Partner at KPMG, PwC and Bain.   Most importantly he's a life-long car enthusiast, mountain biker and active sports enthusiast. He designs and builds technology platforms and is the architect behind Transmission.

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