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GP Week : Issue 196
contract F1 >>> nEWs HORNER A RELUCTANT BERNIE REPLACEMENT Bernie ecclestone has named Christian Horner as his preferred ‘designated driver ’ of Formula One, adding he would be happy to “hold his hand” during a transitional period if the Red Bull team principal expressed an interest in taking over the reins. “Christian would be ideal,” ecclestone said. “I would be happy to hold his hand... It needs someone who knows the sport. If someone comes in from outside, a corporate type, I don’t think I could work with them. It wouldn’t last five minutes. People deal with me because they know me. That’s how it is with Christian. I hope we can do it.” Before Horner’s emerging influence in the sport, it looked as though former Renault boss Flavio Briatore would take over from ecclestone in the event of his retirement, but the Italian (with whom ecclestone owned shares in British football club Queens Park Rangers) has since been relegated to the fringes of Formula One for his part in the 2008 ‘Crashgate’ fiasco. ecclestone’s lawyer, sacha Woodward-Hill, had also been linked with the role, along with Formula One ‘outsiders’ sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King and (former) Marks and spencer chairman sir stuart Rose. since taking over the stewardship of Red Bull Racing in 2005 at the age of 35, Horner has cultivated a strong friendship with ecclestone, being one of the few invitees to ecclestone’s nuptials with Fabiana Flosi, who also enjoys close ties with Horner’s wife Beverley. Horner, however, was at pains to disperse speculation over such a move, saying that he couldn’t “see how any one individual can replace Bernie. What he does is unique and it will be a sad day for the sport when he's no longer here." Horner added in a press release: “While Bernie's comments in the press are very flattering, I am fully focused on my role as team principal with Infiniti Red Racing. I have a long term contract with the team.” In March this year, it was reported that ecclestone had met with selected teams with a view to making deals for the future of Formula One. The F1 supremo purportedly met with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and Red Bull CeO Dietrich Mateschitz to offer their respective teams favourable terms, believing the rest of the paddock would fall in line with the signing of a new Concorde Agreement. ecclestone allegedly offered both teams minor shareholdings in a yet to be floated company, presumably with the intention of keeping the lucrative drinks company in the sport for the foreseeable future. In a striking cour t statement, CVC Capital Partners co-founder Donald Mackenzie said that while CVC’s purchase of Formula One was one of the investment fund’s “top 10” deals, he felt that it had still been “sold a pup.” The eight-year association between CVC and Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Group has been financially rewarding for both parties, but Mackenzie (above, with Mr E ) said that his company’s F1investment had come with many strings attached. Mackenzie claimed that Ecclestone and BayernLB had “oversold the business” and had left CVC “with a lot more problems”. “It’s been an extremely difficult investment almost from start to finish,” he said. “It was constant crisis and fire -fighting.” With no Concorde Agreement in place when CVC acquired its F1 stake, and the very real threat of a breakaway series spearheaded by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, CVC were left the potential owners of a series with no foreseeable future or earning capability. But with little insider knowledge on how the sport functions, the investment group was left with no other option but to trust Ecclestone to handle the tenuous relationship between Formula One’s management and the teams. “In that period between 2006, when we bought it, and 2009, we could not sell this company,” s aid Mackenzie. “It was not sellable. No one wants to buy Formula One when there's no Concorde Agreement signed... It really was a misjudgement by us.” Should Ecclestone be exonerated, it remains unclear whether CVC would retain him in in his familiar role, but recent moves by the owners show little tolerance for any further tarnishing of the F1 brand. Speaking to press outside the London courtroom, Mackenzie confirmed that CVC still hoped to float F1 on the stock exchange. An attempt to do so on the Singapore Stock exchange last year was abandoned, and instead CVC reduced its stake in the business from 63 percent to 35 percent, selling to other investment consortia. “ We’ve always taken the position that if it’s proven that Mr Ecclestone has done anything that’s criminal or wrong we will fire him,” Mackenzie said when asked whether Ecclestone’s position was unimpeachable. “But until that happens we will give him the benefit of the doubt, provided it is not seriously damaging the business of Formula One. At no time have we put our profit in this investment ahead of doing the right thing in this corporate governance A BLOT ON THE CVC CV? 10 GPWEEK.com // 10 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: