I think new blood and new money can only help F1. I'm also hoping that this will bode well for the Montreal Grand Prix. I mean a Canadian owner should be willing to support and promote a Canadian race.
On the down side, the new owner seem to think "big" and that's not always a good thing. He also seems a bit pushy in his business dealings, and has annoyed lots of locals with his big real estate project.
More about the new owner at:
The Toronto Star
(requires registration, so here's the article)
Racy T.O. tycoon makes $50M splash
You may not have heard about billionaire Alex Shnaider. But that's going to change.
The 36-year-old Toronto resident has brought plans for Donald Trump's landmark skyscraper to the corner of Bay and Adelaide, and is now the proud new owner of the Jordan Formula One team.
"I wasn't invited to Donald's wedding, at least I don't think I was," Shnaider said yesterday as his Toronto-based Midland Group announced an estimated $50-million purchase of auto-racing team Jordan Grand Prix.
Shnaider actually may not have had time to check if the Trump wedding was on his engagement list.
With 34 offices around the world, 50,000-plus employees, and earnings in excess of $2 billion, he needs to be in Russia, Europe, Asia, and all over North America, just to keep ahead of his commitments.
"I live in a plane," he says.
Shnaider's first big splash came last fall with the unveiling of The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto's financial district. This is a $500-million deal, and while Donald Jr. and reality-show star Bill Rancic attracted all the media attention, it was Shnaider who provided most of the financial muscle behind the project.
The Jordan team purchase has now put him on the radar of every A-list money and sports magazine. There are the full-length features in Luxury Magazine and F1's in-house publication. U.S. magazine Forbes is also coming out with a cover story, ending the anonymity of a soft-spoken, mostly private man who somehow slipped under the radar when some reputable Canadian business publications listed their 100 wealthiest Canadians.
"I travel a lot, there are a lot of things to do, and I am really in Toronto maybe six months of the year," Shnaider said.
Shnaider definitely lives the fabulous life. He has his own Bombardier luxury jet, and impeccable taste in clothes, jewellery, art, and automobiles. And he networks with business barons and Hollywood types.
But he would rather slip in and out of $400,000 cars at the North York offices of the Midland Group in relative obscurity. Privacy, and security for his wife, Simona, and their three daughters, is of paramount importance.
"I don't think that would be a good idea," Shnaider replied when asked if he would give the names of his three daughters.
Shnaider met his wife in Toronto, and the two maintain an incredible home in North York. Like her husband, Simona was born in Russia, immigrated to Israel, and came to Toronto as a teenager.
"I met her here, in Toronto, and we like to take our children to movies and to parks," Shnaider said.
"In the summer, we spend most of our time in Europe. But our children are in school (in Toronto) right now, and that is very important."
Shnaider speaks with a Russian accent, a silky baritone link to a host of ties he keeps with his homeland.
The new F1 team will be unveiled Feb. 25 in a heated tent city in Moscow's Red Square. Much of Shnaider's business is conducted in Russia and Ukraine, and his goals for the racing venture include bringing a first-ever F1 race to Russia, and gracing the series with its first-ever Russian driver.
"Yes, I would like to have a Russian driver, as one of our main drivers, but right now there isn't one who is experienced enough. They are too young," said the son of a dentist mother and an engineer father who emigrated from Russia to Israel in 1972, and then to Canada in 1982, when Shnaider was 13.
"We are planning to use Russian aerodynamic experts and engineers ... they are specialists involved with MiG (fighter jets) and Sukhoi (Russian aircraft manufacturer) ... anything from our group of companies that can help."
Shnaider attended William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate and later, York University.
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he focused on business opportunities opening up in the former Soviet Union. Shnaider made a connection with his current partner, Eduard Shifrin, that would change his life forever.
Upon graduating from York, Shnaider found employment in a trading company in Ukraine. With Shifrin, he forged a supply and marketing team that became a lightning rod for Ukraine steel mills needing new markets.
"We didn't have to pay any money up front," Shnaider said about selling steel. "We paid it back when we made the sales. They basically came to us and said, `please, will you sell our steel.'"
Profits came quickly, and Shnaider acted quickly, buying the same steel mills outright, and then branching in to real estate in Moscow, Black Sea shipping, agriculture, commodities trading, and the privatization of electricity in Armenia.
When Serbian premier Zoran Djindjic was assassinated in March, 2003, Shnaider navigated a very risky investment climate and came away as one of the country's leading foreign investors in hotels, automotive supplies, and food product companies.
His latest opportunity is Formula One, a lifelong passion. "I don't have any experience in F1, but I love the sport, I'm a big fan and one of my passions is to watch Grand Prixs," Shnaider said.
"The sport is global, like our company. It has high exposure (350 million viewers worldwide for every race). I think commercially, it is very viable for our group."
Shnaider's parking space is filled with automotive gems worthy of Formula One or the Barrett-Jackson car auction even though he personally has no experience in racing.
He is the proud owner of one of only two known Mercedes McLaren SLRs in Toronto.
But that exclusive ride sits idle in the winter months in favour of a Bentley Arnage or a Mercedes AMG Gelandewagen —Mercedes' version of the Hummer.
That's more than $1 million in cars right there, and that's not to mention the Ferraris.
Shnaider is seen in specially made suits, mostly Italian. He also collects art, favouring hand-picked Russian artists. On his wrist is a Audemars Piguet watch that cost more than some cars. He dabbles in on-line and over-the-phone watch auctions, building an impressive collection that, like his suits, art, and other tastes, would require expert knowledge to truly appreciate what they are and where they come from.
It's that attention to detail — and the ability to bankroll it — that Shnaider brings to Formula One.
Along his travels, Shnaider met with European F3 masterminds Trevor Carlan and Collin Kolles, and has now hired the two to manage his F1 team.
The $100 million or so it takes to field a competitive team will fall into place with Jordan's key sponsors under contract for 2005.
After that, most contracts allow sponsors to review their involvement if the team changes ownership.
Since the need for sponsorship is relentless, Shnaider has Toronto native Keith Smout, a veteran of F1 sponsorship deals, driving that end of the operation for the Midland Group.
"I thought I was finished with F1, but when I met Alex, there was a freshness to it again, and the excitement of a man like Alex getting into it at the ground level ... it was very attractive," says Smout, who has pulled off deals for Arrows, Jacques Villeneuve's former BAR team, and most recently, Jaguar.
Shnaider says he's extremely happy to be entering the world of Formula One, and counts F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone among his friends.
But his race team, like his business empire, leaves him little time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labour.
"I feel wonderful, but I am concerned too," Shnaider said.
"We have very little time before the season opens (March 6 in Australia). It's great to be able to have this team, but from another side, there is so much work to do."