US car giant Ford said it had found a buyer willing to pay £479 million for its luxury marque Aston Martin.

David Roberts, formerly of boss of Benetton and BAR who leads the motor racing group Prodrive has agreed to buy the company, while allowing Ford to retain a £40 million investment, while freeing up funds for other ailing brands in its stable.

Roberts, whose Prodrive has its first Formula One drive in the 2008 Championship, is partnered by a US banker John Sinders and Kuwaiti backers Dar and Adeem Investment.

Ford first said it may sell Aston Martin last August after posting a £6.5 billion loss on its annual financial results that pushed it into the red, as the worst showing in its 103-year history. It blamed rising fuel costs and interest rates on turning consumers off its staple truck and 4x4 sales through other brands including land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo and Mazda.

Ford, which completed its acquisition of Aston Martn in 1993, had predicted steady growth for the UK-founded marque last year. But Ford itself is now in the midst of closing 16 sites and culling 45,000 jobs.

"The sale of Aston Martin supports the key objectives of the company, to restructure to operate profitably at lower volumes and changed model mix and to speed the development of new products," stated Alan Mulally, Ford president and chief executive.

"From Aston Martin's point of view, the sale will provide access to additional capital, which will allow Aston Martin to continue the growth it has experienced under Ford's stewardship."

Last year, Ford was the thirty seventh largest IT user in the UK, according to last year's MIS/CIO 100. Bill Fairclough, Ford European IT director at the time said: “The business focus on cost has meant continuing to simplify our IT portfolio, and really concentrating on getting value for money through our supply chain and global sourcing agreements.”