Formula 1 Teams Look at Buying Series Stake, Ecclestone Says
A group of Formula One teams is “having a conversation” about buying a stake in the auto racing series whose biggest shareholder is CVC Capital Partners Ltd., F-1 Chief Executive Officer Bernie Ecclestone said.
Ecclestone, who owns a 5 percent stake in the business, said he’s not part of the talks and didn’t identify the teams involved.
“We’ll see what the group comes up with,” Ecclestone, 83, said in a phone interview yesterday. “Maybe they will get enough together to buy shares.”
The move comes as Ecclestone prepares to stand trial on bribery charges in Munich, and as lawmakers in Norway examine whether the state-owned investment fund broke its own rules in buying a stake in the sport.
A spokesman for Ferrari SpA’s team declined to comment. Mercedes and Red Bull team officials didn’t immediately return e-mails seeking comment. A CVC official didn’t immediately return a phone message.
Teams including Ferrari, the oldest and most successful in the sport, considered bidding for Formula One’s commercial rights from ruling body Federation Internationale de l’Automobile in 1995 before Ecclestone acquired them, and had discussions about starting a breakaway series as recently as 2011.
The biggest teams, whose owners include energy-drink maker Red Bull GmbH and luxury carmaker Daimler AG’s Mercedes (DAI), have since signed bilateral agreements with CVC to remain in the sport through 2020. Ecclestone said he didn’t know who had initiated the latest discussions.
The talks are “just a conversation” and “may not go anywhere,” Ecclestone said.
Trial in Germany
He is scheduled to go on trial on April 24 charged with bribery and inciting former Bayerische Landesbank executive Gerhard Gribkowsky to commit breach of trust in the 2005 sale of Formula One to CVC by the German bank.
Ecclestone testified in 2011 he was the victim of a sophisticated shakedown by Gribkowsky and denied bribery.
London-based CVC sold 21 percent of Formula One to Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management, BlackRock Inc. and Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. for $1.6 billion in 2012.
The Norwegian fund’s rules say it can only buy private equity if a company is planning to sell shares to the public. Formula One’s scheduled initial public offering was subsequently canceled.
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