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Ecclestone on the hunt for F1 sponsorship boss

NEWS STORY
15/04/2014

The bribery trial of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone begins next week and there have been more than a few rumours in the run up to it. Recent articles in the Financial Times alone claimed that Ecclestone wants to buy back F1 and that he is preparing to depart the sport. Ecclestone has now set the record straight by denying reports that he is planning to take over F1 and has revealed he is recruiting a head of sponsorship according to an article in the City A.M. newspaper by Christian Sylt.

F1 has 313 staff but Ecclestone personally negotiates its sponsorship deals with brands including logistics firm DHL, luxury watchmaker Rolex and investment bank UBS. Sponsorship comprises 14.7% of F1's £960m annual revenue and it has growth potential as the sport lacks partners in key categories including clothing, mobile phones and soft drinks.

"We need somebody who can sell sponsorship," says Ecclestone. "Not a successor but somebody to help me."

Ecclestone currently receives sponsorship advice from Michael Payne, former marketing director of the International Olympic Committee and senior strategic advisor to the London 2012 Olympics. However, Ecclestone says he will need more internal assistance when his trial begins on 24 April.

His future has been the subject of much discussion recently as German prosecutors have charged him with paying part of a £26.3m bribe to steer the sale of F1 to the private equity firm CVC in 2006. He denies the charges and in February won a related civil case in London's High Court.

Ass Pitpass revealed, the bribery trial will take place two days a week to allow Ecclestone to run F1 at the same time. He has a 5.3% stake in F1 compared to 35% owned by CVC which controls the sport. In November last year CVC co-founder Donald Mackenzie said "if it is proven that Mr Ecclestone has done anything that is criminally wrong, we would fire him."

This sparked rumours that Ecclestone could mount a takeover of F1 with leading teams so that he can remain in the driving seat even if he is found guilty but is not imprisoned. He seemed to confirm the rumours in a recent interview with the Financial Times which quoted him saying that he "would like to get back to" a plan drawn up some years ago for him and the teams to become controlling shareholders of F1. "We'd certainly want control," he reportedly said.

However, Ecclestone says "it wasn't true. That's what pisses me off. I don't want to buy F1 back. Of course not." He says he would only do this if the price was low. "It depends how much, that's what I said to the FT. The answer is a very simple one. I know what CVC would want and the answer is no. If somebody asked for a price that was lower the answer would be yes."

CVC has a 35% stake in F1 and was targeting a £7.2bn valuation of the business when it planned to exit in a flotation on the Singapore stock exchange in 2012. The float was given a red light due to the eurozone crisis and the brakes are likely to remain on it until Ecclestone's trial comes to a close in September.

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1. Posted by PeterJ42, 15/04/2014 12:05

"Just Marketing Inc (JMI) claims UBS as one of theirs. Is Bernie claiming credit for someone else's deal? Or is JMI jousting for the sponsorship position? Or both?"

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