Ecclestone 'happy' with £1.75bn F1 deal

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The Independent Online

Bernie Ecclestone says that he is "very happy" with a $3bn (£1.75bn) business deal announced yesterday which could have beneficial effects on the long-term stability of Formula One.

CVC Capital Partners have acquired the 25 per cent stake in SLEC, the Formula One holding company, held by Bambino Holdings, the Ecclestone family trust, and 51 per cent of the German Bayerische Landesbank. The latter was forced into the sport when the German Kirsch media group collapsed after they had lent it $1.6bn (£930m). CVC are also negotiating for the holdings of the banks J P Morgan and Lehman Brothers.

In August, Ecclestone rejected similar offers from the private equity firm Clearbrook Capital Partners, and the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Group. But yesterday he said: "Bayersiche Landesbank's heart wasn't really in it. Obviously they wanted to get as much out of a deal as they could but there was always the risk that control of F1 might pass to unsavoury people. I'm glad to say that CVC are very good people." A new company, Alpha Prema, features CVC, Bambino (via a reinvestment), Ecclestone and the Formula One management team as shareholders.

CVC have made several successful acquisitions, including the Automobile Association, Halfords and Kwik-Fit, but of more relevance to motorsport fans is their rebranding of the 500 cc motorcycle world championship as MotoGP after acquiring 75 per cent of Dorna, the Spanish sports management company. Under CVC's control, MotoGP has taken off in recent years.

Formula One's future is uncertain beyond 2007 when the current Concorde Agreement expires, as only Ferrari, Red Bull and Jordan have signed up to a new one that would take effect from 1 January 2008.