Ecclestone sells 50% of Formula One

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The Independent Online

BERNIE ECCLESTONE, the Formula One supremo, yesterday breathed life back into his long-standing plans to float his motor-racing interests after Morgan Grenfell Private Equity (MGPE) signed a £780m deal to buy up to half of the business.

BERNIE ECCLESTONE, the Formula One supremo, yesterday breathed life back into his long-standing plans to float his motor-racing interests after Morgan Grenfell Private Equity (MGPE) signed a £780m deal to buy up to half of the business.

The specialist investment arm of Deutsche Bank has agreed to buy up to 50 per cent of Formula One Holdings (FOH), owned by the Ecclestone family trust, which auctions the broadcast rights to the sport.

MGPE said it was confident that the potential risk posed by a European Commission inquiry into Mr Ecclestone's alleged flouting of competition rules had been overstated.

An initial release from the Commission in June found that in many cases the practice for selling the sport's television rights was unlawful. A Commission spokesman said yesterday that no date had been set for the release of its full findings. Mr Ecclestone's flotation plans two years ago were derailed when the investigation was launched.

"[A float] has long been Mr Ecclestone's intention: having a financial partner like us will help in that regard. People are used to us bringing issues to market. It is about two or three years down the line," Graham Hutton, MGPE's chief executive, said. "We view the risks as very manageable, and less than perceived on the outside."

MGPE signed the deal to take a stake in SLEC Holding, the holding company of FOH. The broadcast rights are sold through Formula One Administration, which is wholly owned by FOH. SLEC gains access to the rights through an exclusive deal with the Geneva-based Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the sport's governing body. Mr Ecclestone is a vice-president of promotions at the FIA, which is run by his long-time friend, Max Mosley.

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