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For over a year we have been hearing reports that F1's owner, the private equity firm CVC, was the highest bidder when it bought the sport in 2006. Now Pitpass can reveal that not only was it the highest bidder but it initially offered to pay £255m ($400m) more than the price it eventually got for F1.
It is thanks to the ongoing saga surrounding former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky that details of the bids for F1 got into the public domain.
Gribkowsky was the chief risk officer of German bank BayernLB which owned a 46.65% stake in F1's parent company SLEC. In June last year German prosecutors sentenced Gribkowsky to eight and a half years in prison for receiving £28.1m ($44m) from F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone and his family trust in return for allegedly steering the sale of BayernLB's F1 shares to CVC. Prosecutors claimed that CVC was Ecclestone's preferred buyer since it agreed to retain him as F1's boss. They added that because Gribkowsky received a bribe to sell to CVC he did not bother looking for higher bidders and therefore BayernLB's F1 stake had been undervalued.
Gribkowsky was found guilty of receiving a bribe to sell to CVC but, as Pitpass revealed, the prosecutors were forced to admit that it was the highest bidder. The indictment (basically the statement of claims) against Gribkowsky confirmed that although BayernLB received several "offers, or rather expressions of interest" in its F1 shares, except for the one from CVC "none of these offers were regarded as being suitable, especially for reasons of price."
Hong-Kong based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa reportedly offered £638m ($1bn) with rival private equity firm Clearbrook Capital making a £1bn ($1.5bn) bid. CVC paid £1.1bn ($1.7bn) and Pitpass has revealed the company documents which prove this. BayernLB was paid £535.4m ($839.1m) and this was just what it was looking for.
During Gribkowsky's trial Kurt Faltlhauser, who headed BayernLB's administrative board from July 2002 until July 2005, said "the price we were offered by CVC was surprisingly high and it came as a great relief." Former BayernLB management board member Dieter Burgmer added that "BayernLB's management board regarded the net proceeds from the sale of the Formula One stake to CVC as very attractive." Reflecting this, BayernLB announced a valuation yield of £272m (€328m) in its 2006 results and stated that the sale of the F1 shares "decisively contributed to the positive result." It could have made even more from CVC.
Writing for business newspaper CityAM Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt has revealed that CVC offered BayernLB the chance to reinvest in F1 at a bargain basement price.
On 19 September 2005 CVC made a written offer to BayernLB for the bank's F1 shares and the 25% stake which was owned by Bambino, the Ecclestone family trust. Pitpass is the first media outlet to reveal the offer letter which can be read here (pdf) with certain confidential details obscured for security reasons. It states that CVC offered BayernLB the chance to buy back a 10% stake in F1 for £63.8m ($100m) which may sound like a lot but in fact it was a steal.
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