Exclusive: Silverstone sold - paving way for redevelopment at home of British Grand Prix

The identity of the buyer is unknown, although believed to be a real estate firm

Silverstone, the home of British motor racing, has been sold - raising the prospect of a new business and technology park being built beside the famous circuit, The Independent has learnt.

The identity of the buyer of the Northamptonshire race track, which is home to the Formula One British Grand Prix, is unknown, but is believed to be a real estate firm.

The most recent company linked with a takeover of the track was MEPC, a property group owned by the BT pension fund. Its offer was reportedly for £40m and paves the way for a 200-acre business park to be built on the land.

Until now, Silverstone has been owned and operated by the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC), a group which has more than 800 members including F1 stars Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

For the past few years the BRDC has been trying to sell a 150-year lease on the track and 850 acres of land surrounding it in order to financially separate the club from the British Grand Prix, which comes with an annual hosting fee estimated at £14m.

The leaseholder will take over as the promoter of the race and it is understood that terms were finalised over the past 10 days. Bernie Ecclestone, boss of the F1 Group, is meeting the new investors next week in advance of a formal announcement.

A senior motorsport personality, who is a BRDC member, told The Independent: “A deal has been done on Silverstone. I don’t know who bought it and I don’t know what the terms are, but it is absolutely categoric that a deal has been done and not due to be announced until next month probably.”

According to a recent report on the F1 website Pitpass, due diligence has been done on Silverstone five times over the past few months. It quoted a BRDC member who said he would “love to see the club out of Silverstone” but hoped that it would still be able to “use it and benefit from its heritage”.

The BRDC’s masterplan for Silverstone includes construction of a new business park, a technology hub, education campus and three hotels. A spokesman for the BRDC refused to comment, while a spokesman for the MEPC said it did not comment on any transactions.

The BRDC wants to use the proceeds of the deal to pay down loans it took out from Lloyds to fund construction of a new pit and paddock complex which opened at Silverstone in 2011. The work was needed due to the age of the 3.7-mile track. It sits on the site of a former airfield and hosted the first-ever round of the F1 championship in 1950.

The new facilities were demanded by Ecclestone as a condition of the BRDC signing a 17-year British Grand Prix contract in 2009. It left the club with £26.1m of net debt in 2011, the most recent year for which accounts are available. Interest on the debt alone came to £842,000 and this contributed to the BRDC making a £4.5m net loss.

The BRDC’s members have not given consent for the board to sell Silverstone outright, which is why it embarked on granting a long-term lease.

Hosting a Grand Prix can be a poisoned chalice as circuits generally do not get any revenue from the television broadcasts or corporate hospitality and advertising hoardings during the race. Money from this goes to the F1 Group leaving the circuits with ticket sales as their sole source of income from the sport. This usually barely covers the annual hosting fee with running costs often covered by investment from governments.

The British Grand Prix gets no state subsidies so to compensate for this it has some of the highest ticket prices in F1. They started at £145 this year making them more expensive than tickets to the men’s final at Wimbledon, the Grand National and the final day of The Open.

Race organisers are forced to increase ticket prices due to an escalation clause in their contracts with Ecclestone and this boosts the British Grand Prix hosting fee by an estimated 5 per cent annually.

The race to find a new investor for Silverstone has already stalled once. It began in 2009 when the BRDC members gave permission for a lease to be granted on the land. The club then engaged accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to contact potential investors and it entered into exclusive talks with a preferred bidder. The talks fell through and in May last year the BRDC announced it had opened discussions with other parties. After four years the race is finally over.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices