North One Television CEO Neil Duncanson says that the financial crisis currently affecting the World Rally Championship was unavoidable.
Duncanson, who sold North One Sport to Convers Sports Initiatives, said the due diligence run on CSI and its primary backer Vladimir Antonov couldn't have been more rigorous. It was Antonov's arrest on fraud charges in November which sent CSI and subsequently NOS into bankruptcy protection.
"There's no getting around the fact that the issue with the Russians dropped the sport right in it," Duncanson said. "We sold the business to them, to CSI, in February of last year. They were like manna from heaven, they were all motorsport fans, [Vladimir] Antonov had rallied himself.
"It seemed like the perfect scenario for the sport – a hugely well-funded operation that was totally committed to the WRC for the future. And everything was fine until the wheels came off with a banking scandal which was shattering for us all.
"We spent fortunes on due diligence while we were going through the sales process, so did the FIA. The Premier League and the Football [soccer] League did the same because Portsmouth [Football Club] was involved; every single one of those came up independently clean. We were all taken for a ride, which is very disappointing.
"Even [FIA president] Jean Todt told Simon [Long, NOS CEO] in an early meeting, that he accepted that nobody was to blame and that everybody had performed independent due diligence. We all did everything we could and spent a great deal of money doing it. We were in an unavoidable position.
"And, at the time we all needed to stand together, our key partner in this – the FIA – went strangely radio silent. To this day, I have not had one official communication from them [the FIA] and only one phone call returned, and that was before Christmas, which after 11 years of hard work and commitment to the sport strikes me as pretty disappointing."
While the original situation was unavoidable, Duncanson added that he felt the Qatari buyout was an entirely credible forward for the WRC.
"A fire sale like this is always going to attract a lot of attention," said Duncanson. "And people did come and kick the tires, but in the end these Qatari guys came in and they were clearly serious. I met them, I saw their written offer to the FIA, so I know it's real.
"I thought: 'Bloody hell!' Here were a bunch of people with unlimited resources and they were going to put their money where their mouth was. They were going to pay off all the creditors while funding the [WRC] business plan which had been approved by the FIA, a plan worth millions and millions of pounds."
North One Television is at the top of the list of creditors, with £3m [$4.6m] owed.