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F1 looks set to change hands, again!

NEWS STORY
16/09/2008

As Pitpass predicted on Monday, the F1 shares held by bust US bank Lehman Brothers are set to change hands with the sport's majority owner CVC likely to take them on. This would give the finance firm an 87% stake in F1's commercial rights holder with the news that it is interested in buying revealed in a Daily Telegraph article today written by Pitpass' business reporter Chris Sylt.

Speaking to Sylt, CVC's UK managing director Nick Clarry said "in reality we are the only buyer... we have made an offer to buy Lehmans' shares in the past and may do so again."

According to Clarry, all of the investors in F1 signed an agreement which puts CVC in pole position to take on the shares of anyone who wants to sell. "They (Lehman Brothers) cannot sell without first offering the shares to us and we must approve all and any transfers," he says.

"Lehman have been a good partner so the best outcome is that they continue," adds Clarry, but given the bank's current predicament this looks highly unlikely. Harmony isn't the only reason why he may prefer them to stay on board.

In addition to its stake in the F1 business, Lehman is believed to have lent CVC around half of the £1.2 billion debt which it used to buy its stake in F1. Paying interest of £115 million, as well as repayments of debt lent by other F1 companies, drove Delta 3, F1's UK holding company, to an after-tax loss of £230 million last year. It may struggle to sustain an increase in interest payments so changes to the terms of the debt provided by Lehman may not be a good thing for CVC.

Whilst CVC can buy Lehman's shares in F1 it may not be able to do anything about who takes on the debt. At a time when the economy is worsening, this kind of upheaval is the last thing that F1's bean counters need. Since they control the direction of the sport it could have an impact on us all.

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