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CVC appoints itself as F1's chairman

NEWS STORY
05/09/2011

Earlier this year reports emerged on Sky News claiming that F1's majority owner CVC was sounding out City businessmen about taking a role as non-executive chairman of the sport's holding company Delta Topco. Like a number of the Sky News reports on the business of F1, nothing came of it and it has come to light today, courtesy of an article in the Telegraph by Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt, that instead of an outsider, CVC has appointed its own co-founder Donald Mackenzie as F1's chairman.

Following the original reports, F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone told Sylt "I don't think F1 needs a chairman. Chairmen don't run companies." As Pitpass reported at the time, Ecclestone added that "we will probably bring the [subject of a] chairman up again at a board meeting." This decision has now been made and he has told Sylt that "Donald is the chairman."

The reports of CVC looking to appoint a chairman surfaced in February following the arrest of Gerhard Gribkowsky, former risk manager for German bank BayernLB, who has been charged with taking a £27m bribe for undervaluing its shares in F1 when they were sold to CVC in 2006. Gribkowsky was F1's chairman when CVC acquired the business and he then became a non-executive director of Delta Topco but was removed from the board following his arrest. Although Gribkowsky was replaced with Hardy McLain, another CVC co-founder, F1 still lacked a chairman.

CVC decided to fill the post itself after reportedly considering external candidates including Sir Stuart Rose, the former boss of Marks & Spencer.

Ecclestone says that, despite the Gribkowsky scandal, CVC is not interested in selling F1. "CVC want to keep F1, they don't want to sell," he says adding that nevertheless, "if somebody came along with a respectable sensible offer CVC would probably say let's have a chat. I think one or two people have come along with an offer they probably thought was sensible but CVC didn't."

CVC paid $1.7bn for F1 with $960m of that coming from its funds and the remainder being debt from the Royal Bank of Scotland. Mackenzie was the driving force behind the deal. The 54 year-old Scot studied law at the University of Dundee and started his career at 3i, the listed private equity group, before leaving to join Citicorp, the forerunner to CVC, in 1988. Buying F1 was a dream opportunity for Mackenzie as his boyhood hero was fellow Scot Jim Clark who won the Formula One World Championship twice.

Ecclestone says "a lot of people advised CVC not to buy F1." However, the gamble has paid off. "Private equity companies try and buy cheap, build the business by whatever way, most times by firing half the staff, so the next year you're going to make more money then you sell. They didn't need to do that with F1," says Ecclestone.

Since 2006 F1's turnover has increased 62% to $1.6bn and, according to F1's industry monitor Formula Money, CVC has made an estimated $800m in net profit from it over the past five years. So although Mackenzie is a racing fan, F1 is more than just a giant Scalextric set for him to play with.

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