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Bernie and the F1 'family tree'

NEWS STORY
15/05/2007

Our spies in the paddock at Barcelona tell us that Bernie Ecclestone was somewhat miffed - to put it mildly - with a story in the first issue of The Paddock, the new magazine which deals with the business side of Formula One.

It's understood that the F1 supremo was unhappy with an article dealing with the sport's financial affairs, and in particular a 'family tree' type diagram outlining the Formula One Group's company structure.

At the head of the 'tree' sit the 'investors', who include JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers, Bernie, CVC and Bambino Holdings. However, from there is all gets rather complicated, what with anonymous sounding companies such as Delta Topco, Alpha Topco, Delta 2, Beta D3 and Alpha Prema. Indeed, there are times when one believes that rather than looking at the 'ownership' of F1, one is reading the ingredients of a jar of Pot Noodles.

Over twenty companies are identified, including Mirren Holdings, which is hardly likely to be named after the Essex actress who went on to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth. Some of the companies are based in the UK, while others operate out of Ireland, Jersey, Switzerland, the Bahamas and Luxembourg.

With CVC itself shrouded in mystery, even though it owns stakes in numerous companies, including such high-profile names as the Automobile Association, Halfords, Debenhams, Kwik-Fit, Punch Taverns and Tower Records, the true ownership of Formula One becomes increasingly obscure.

Which raises an interesting point.

Why is there a need for so many different companies, and where exactly does this fit in with the manufacturer's demands for 'transparency'? Because, whatever way you look at it, this is about as transparent as mud, which appears to be the point.

Now, as the average F1 fan sits there thinking 'what has this got to do with anything, I want to read about Lewis, Kimi and Fernando', one has to agree, at this point in time the ownership of the sport has little to do with what happens on track. However, one has to wonder where all this transparency is leading, especially when the powers that be appear to be rushing into a number of long-term deals that conflict with Formula One as we currently know it, vis-à-vis more street races, night races and four more races (at least) to be added to the calendar in the next two years.

The question of who owns F1 might not affect man down the pub right now, but what happens a few years from now, and why all the secrecy?

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