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Revealed: The True Price Of F1

NEWS STORY
12/05/2011

All the recent speculation about F1 being sold has led to a wide range of of figures flying around the media regarding the value of the sport. In July last year F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone said he believes that F1 is worth "six or seven billion dollars" which comes to 4.3bn at most.

However, former team boss Eddie Jordan recently claimed that the sport could sell for as much as 7bn which gave rise to more talk of the huge returns its current owner, the private equity firm CVC, could make. Its returns of course depend on the price CVC paid for F1 and this too has also been the subject of speculation.

Sky News claimed that "CVC paid north of $2.5bn to gain control of F1 in 2005-06" but Pitpass has been handed a document which reveals the truth and then some.

The data comes from the accounts of the Jersey-based SLEC Holdings which was F1's ultimate parent company until it was bought by CVC in 2006. Prior to the sale 75% of SLEC was owned by three banks (BayernLB, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers) through their Jersey-based company Speed Investments. The remaining 25% of SLEC was held directly by Bambino Holdings, the investment vehicle owned by the family trust of F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone.

The data shows just how much of a powerhouse CVC was buying. SLEC had an after tax profit of 182.3m ($313.7m) for the year ending 31 December 2005 and it had built up a whopping 402.5m ($692.5m) cash in the bank. The business was bought for precisely $1,710,312,000 in cash - far from the $2.5bn which has been speculated.

SLEC had just 12.8m ($22.1m) in tangible assets with 1.1bn ($1.9bn) in intangibles and goodwill connected to the commercial rights to F1.

This doesn't mean to say that all was rosy in F1's garden when CVC bought it. In fact, the teams were threatening to form a rival series and the Concorde Agreement was due to expire at the end of the following year.

With hindsight it is easy to see that the teams' threat of a rival series was utterly laughable since they never had anything even vaguely close to the commitment to follow it through and there is no evidence that anything has changed on that front. Nevertheless, in 2005, it looked like SLEC's revenues would dry up a few years later when the rival series was due to begin. Bearing in mind that the company owed a staggering 548.4m ($943.4m) at the end of 2005, any drop in income could have had a disastrous effect.

It shows just how true Ecclestone's recent comments were when he said that "CVC were very courageous when they bought." Likewise, it is yet further evidence demonstrating that F1 was not undervalued when it was sold to CVC contrary to claims which have come out of Germany.

Buying F1 was a big gamble for CVC but it paid off. CVC now makes so much money from F1 annually that Ecclestone says it won't sell. That sum will come to light soon and it is sure to open some eyes. However, getting there was far from straightforward. First CVC set up a new parent company called Delta Topco and took out a 196m ($334m) loan to buy the businesses which were contracted to handle trackside advertising and corporate hospitality. It then gave the teams 50% of Delta Topco's underlying profit which doubled their take. Then, after FIA president Max Mosley resigned, Ecclestone finally convinced the teams to sign a new Concorde.

Races and teams have been added since CVC bought the sport and it has motored through one of the worst recessions in history. What this means is that if it sells F1 it is going to want to receive a heck of a lot more than the $1,710,312,000 that it paid. Not only has CVC invested in the business but it has brought the sport back from the brink of disaster. It is hard to put a price on how much that is worth.

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