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Ecclestone gives 75m F1 stake to the FIA

NEWS STORY
11/11/2013

Back in September the FIA announced that "the framework for implementation of the Concorde Agreement for the period 2013 - 2020, has now come into force." In a nutshell, the FIA had come to an agreement with F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone on new commercial terms which will be in force until the end of 2020. The Concorde Agreement is of course the contract which commits the teams to race and confirms the regulations which they will compete under. Ever since the announcement there has been speculation about the benefits the FIA will get under the new deal. The most lucrative of them has today been confirmed in an article in the Guardian by Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt.

The FIA statement in September was vague about the commercial terms on offer as it simply stated that "this agreement provides the FIA with significantly improved financial means to pursue its regulatory missions and to reflect the enhanced role undertaken by the FIA in the Motor Sport." However, some light has now been shed on this by Ecclestone who confirmed long-standing rumours by revealing to Sylt that he has agreed to give a 1% equity stake in F1's parent company Delta Topco to the FIA in return for it signing up.

Although 1% may not sound like a lot, F1's largest shareholder, the private equity firm CVC, has put a 7.5bn ($12bn) valuation on the sport which means that the FIA's stake is worth an estimated 75m ($120m). It is a significant sum for the FIA given that it only had revenues of 42.2m (€50.6m) in 2011.

Ecclestone says "the FIA gets 1% if F1 floats but the teams don't have shares." F1's 11 teams have all signed separate contracts with him through to the end of 2020 so getting commitment from the FIA paves the way for the sport's long-awaited stock market flotation which is currently stuck in the pits.

It has been held up by charges against Ecclestone for allegedly paying part of a 27.5m ($44m) bribe to steer the sale of a 47.2% stake in F1 to CVC in 2006.

Last week he gave evidence in a High Court trial in London brought by German media rights firm Constantin Medien. It claims that Ecclestone and his Bambino family trust paid 27.5m to Gerhard Gribkowsky, the banker who was in charge of selling the F1 stake. Constantin says that the bribe was paid to ensure that Gribkowsky sold to CVC as it had agreed to retain Ecclestone as F1's chief executive.

Ecclestone denies that the payment was a bribe. He says that Gribkowsky threatened to tell the Inland Revenue that he controlled Bambino if the money was not paid. Bambino is based offshore but Ecclestone is a UK resident so he would be liable to pay tax on the estimated 2.5bn ($4bn) in the trust if he was found to be in control of it which he strongly denies.

Last week Ecclestone told the court "I was informed clearly that it was extremely serious because if somebody at that time had contacted the Revenue and said: I've got some information that Mr Ecclestone controls the family trust they would have assessed me for something in the region of 2 billion and I wouldn't have been able to pay it." However, he added "I didn't think it through properly. Had I have thought it through properly, for sure I would have not paid him."

Legal wrangles aren't the only reason that a flotation of F1 hasn't got the green light. It was due to take place on the Singapore stock exchange in June last year but CVC put the brakes on it due to the financial crisis in the eurozone. Instead, CVC cut its stake in F1 by around half through selling 28.4% of the sport to money managers BlackRock, Waddell & Reed and Norges, the investment division of Norway's central bank.

CVC netted 1.3bn ($2.1bn) from the sales and got a further 540m ($865m) from a dividend during 2012. Its owns a 35.5% stake in Delta Topco and Ecclestone personally holds 5.3%. He agreed to give the FIA 1% of the shares issued on flotation to settle a long-running commercial dispute.

Delta Topco owns the rights to F1 until 2110 and it paid 195.5m ($313m) for them in 2001. The FIA's annual fee for the rights comes to just 6.2m ($10m) yet they generate revenues of over 940m ($1.5bn) for Delta Topco. The FIA has been negotiating for more money and has used its regulatory influence to achieve its aim.

This year the entry fees per F1 team increased from 195,000 ($310,000) to 203,686 ($325,000) to plus 1,900 ($3,100) per point or 3,750 ($6,000) for the championship-winning team. It means that Red Bull Racing, which won the F1 title last year, has to pay 2m ($3.3m) – a ten-fold increase on its fee from 2012. The cost of F1 drivers' Super Licences has also accelerated from a base fee of 1,140 ($1,830) plus 145 ($230) per point in 2012 to 6,250 ($10,000) plus 625 ($1,000) per point.

The FIA's new agreement with Ecclestone will increase its total take from F1 to around 25m ($40m) annually in addition to the equity stake so it certainly shouldn't be short of money. Time will tell whether it remains satisfied.

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1. Posted by GoodPublicity, 11/11/2013 14:35

""I didn't think it through properly." - That applies to pretty much every decision about F1 that Bernie's ever made."

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