Ecclestone: Formula 1 could be sold this year
Formula 1 could have new owners by the end of the year with three parties currently interested, the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Tuesday.
“Our shareholders at the moment are basically in such a position where they have to lose some of their shares, or all of them, shortly,” the 84-year-old Briton told a Camp Beckenbauer Global Summit in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in a telephone interview.
“That’s the way things are set up for them,” he added. “There has been a lot of interest and I would say there are three parties at the moment. I’d be surprised if one of them don’t buy very shortly.”
Asked what sort of timeframe was likely, Ecclestone replied: “This year.”
Ecclestone did not name any of the interested parties. CVC Capital Partners are currently the controlling shareholders with a 35.5 percent stake, while Ecclestone holds 5.3 percent.
U.S. investment groups BlackRock and Waddell & Reed, along with Norway’s Norges Bank, are among other shareholders.
Reports in June suggested that RSE Ventures, the investment vehicle of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, was teaming up with Qatar Sports Investments to buy CVC’s stake in a potential $7 billion-$8 billion deal.
Also whispered in the paddock is the possibility the Red Bull might bid for the sport, with Dieter Mateschitz increasingly disillusioned with not winning any more, and the talk is that if he can’t beat them then he will simply buy them.
The energy drinks outfit own, or have previously owned, the likes of the Red Bull Air Race, motocross themed X-Fighters, hang-gliding/ hiking based X-Alps and Storm Chase catering for extreme windsurfing.. But F1 ownership would be the biggest sporting investment made by Red Bull.
Meanwhile CVC’s co-chairman Donald Mackenzie told Reuters in July, however, that the rights holders were under no pressure to sell.
“We like owning it (Formula One), we don’t want to sell it. There are always some people who’d like to buy it, it’s a very good business,” he said.
CVC sold down its holding from 63 percent in 2012 in deals that at the time gave the business an enterprise value, which includes debt and equity, of $9.1 billion.
Ecclestone told Reuters separately in July that “lots of people have made approaches” and indicated he too might be interested in a takeover or buyout.
“Donald Mackenzie doesn’t want to sell, simple as that,” he said then. “He loves Formula One, loves the business. He may have to sell his shares. Whether he will invest himself, maybe with me separately, we will have to wait and see.”