Formula One shock as the man in pole to succeed Ecclestone quits...

 

A senior figure in Formula One motor racing who was widely tipped to take over from 81-year-old chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has stepped down, the Independent can reveal.

David Campbell, the former boss of London's O2 Arena, quit as managing director of the sport's sponsorship and corporate hospitality division last week after less than a year in the job. CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm that is the majority owner of F1, confirmed that Mr Campbell "has left".

An insider at CVC said: "It didn't really work out. Bernie wanted to take the business in a different way, and that wasn't the basis on which we hired David. His departure was by mutual agreement."

Mr Campbell declined to comment.

The veteran of the entertainment industry had previously turned the O2 Arena, the former Millennium Dome in Greenwich, into the world's most popular music venue and was chief executive and president of its parent company, AEG Europe. Before that, he worked for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group for 11 years rising to become boss of Virgin Radio and masterminding the sale of the station to Scottish broadcaster SMG for £225m.

CVC poached Mr Campbell to run Allsport Management, F1's sponsorship and corporate hospitality division, after the retirement of its founder, 73-year-old Patrick McNally.

Mr Campbell started at the end of March 2011 and worked from F1's headquarters in London and Allsport's offices in Geneva. He was appointed to Allsport's board in July. Its other directors include two CVC executives, a representative of Mr Ecclestone's family trust, its chief financial officer Duncan Llowarch and Judith Griggs, a minority shareholder in F1.

Mr Campbell's exit raises the question of who will take over as boss of Allsport, and puts Mr Ecclestone in the driving seat as he is chief executive of the company's parent, Delta Topco.

The internal politics of F1 are famously labyrinthine. Mr Ecclestone remains embroiled in a court case in Germany, where investment banker Gerhard Gribowksy has faced accusations that he took bribes during the 2006 sale of F1 to CVC. All those involved denied that any payments constituted bribery.

Meanwhile, there has been persistent speculation that CVC has received approaches to buy its stake. As the new F1 season gets under way later this month, the sport is facing calls to axe its race in Bahrain because of the country's crackdown on democracy protesters.

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