F1 plans partner programme to rival Olympics


Hot on the heels of Monday's article by Pitpass' business reporter Chris Sylt about how the F1 teams hold the keys to the future of the sport comes more news about its future direction.

Following a recent meeting which led to Monday's article, Nick Clarry, UK managing director of F1's owner CVC, has revealed in an email to Sylt the sport's grand plan to boost revenues. It seems that giving gold medals to winning drivers isn't the only things that F1 is modelling on the Olympics.

"We are building a global partner programme like the Olympics and Football World Cup, with a range of partners such as official finance partner and official logistics partner," says Clarry. German insurer Allianz and DHL hold these roles respectively and it is thought that official mobile phone and soft drinks partners may not be far off. "Next might come greater focus on internet and merchandise rights," adds Clarry.

Provided CVC doesn't have to give a crippling amount of profits up to F1's teams, and provided that the FIA doesn't force them to accept a standard engine, CVC can look forward to a rich reward.

"Take our investment in Dorna/Moto GP as a guideline to the holding period. We held that for eight years (97-05) and so we are barely half way down the track with F1," says Clarry. He explains that revenues for the F1 Group were $1.07bn in 2006 and hit $1.15bn the following year. This year they are expected to rise to $1.35bn which would give annual growth of around 10% over the past three years - no surprise given that many of the race hosting contracts contain an annual escalation clause for this very amount.

At this rate, eight years after CVC invested, revenues would be around $2bn and valuing the business at three times this would make it worth around $6bn. F1 is currently repaying a $2.3bn loan which CVC used to buy the business and Clarry expects $1bn of this to be paid back in the next five years at which time a similar loan to the original could be taken out to pay the remainder off and give a $1.3bn payout to the sport's shareholders.

Combining a loan payout with estimated proceeds from a sale could yield around $7.5bn for F1's shareholders with CVC taking just over $5bn of it in line with its 69.6% stake in the sport. Accounts for F1's key companies state that $1.29bn of shareholder loans were invested in the CVC deal alongside the debt so a payout of this magnitude would give CVC a return of around four times its investment. Not bad, but still far off Moto GP which had returned well over 800% long before it was sold.

One thing that CVC doesn't have to worry about is being a passenger in its investment as it has control firmly in its grasp.

The key safety belt is written in the governing rules, the articles of association, for Formula One Administration (FOA) F1's direct rights holder. Questions arising at a meeting of its directors are decided by a majority of votes but the articles state that directors appointed by the CVC funds, known as I Directors, shall "between them be deemed to exercise one vote more than the total number of votes exercised by the other directors present and voting". The purpose of this is "to ensure that the I Directors will always have sufficient votes to pass any resolutions of the board."

The articles were changed after CVC bought into F1's holding company SLEC in March 2006. Previously the articles gave specific protection to F1's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone's place on the board, but in the latest version this clause has been removed. Previously, they stated that as long as the Ecclestone family trust company, Bambino Holdings, held no less than 5% of the equity shares in SLEC, directors representing the B shareholding were deemed to have "such number of votes as is required to ensure that such a resolution is not passed" if there was any resolution to remove Ecclestone as a director or to terminate his employment.

The Formula One Group has famously had troubles with its director quotas in the past. In 2004 the group's previous majority owners, the banks BayernLB, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan, won a UK High Court action to gain control of the board of another key group company, Formula One Holdings. The court ruled that Bambino had invalidly appointed two of its own directors to the board. A subsequent case against Formula One Administration was settled out of court. With CVC at the wheel at least F1 is likely to stay out of court.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 20/11/2008
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