Formula One’s owners, CVC Capital Partners, are on the verge of selling a substantial chunk of their controlling 35% stake in the sport as momentum gathers pace for life after Bernie Ecclestone.
According to a report in the Guardian newspaper, the private equity firm – which has attracted plenty of its own criticism for treating the sport as little more than a money-spinner – has decided that Ecclestone, Formula 1’s commercial rights holder, must be removed from his position even if he wins the court case in Munich, where he is facing bribery charges.
The story claims that CVC is convinced that Ecclestone will continue to be an embarrassment even if he emerges victorious – which few believe he will – if, as expected, Britain’s inland Revenue and Customs commences its own investigation into the 83-year-old’s finances, which have formed the basis of the charges laid against him in Germany.
Quite who will take over from Ecclestone is not yet known, although ongoing speculation that Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner is in the frame has been rejected by sources close to CVC, who believe he doesn’t have the necessary commercial and corporate skills for the role.
New ownership and leadership would trigger a radical change in the way Formula 1 is promoted and run, and that’s probably a move that many fans and insiders would welcome. Despite the move to new ‘green’ technology, the sport has suffered a decline in TV viewership while a number of privateer outfits are increasingly struggling to pull together enough funding to remain on the grid.
Ecclestone has been a staunch opponent of new media technology, particularly improving fan engagement online and through social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. To many, he is a roadblock to the future potential the sport could enjoy.
While there has actually been much to celebrate about the sport this year, it’s largely been overshadowed by increasingly bizarre rule changes being brought in by Ecclestone, along of course with his court case which is unlikely to reach a verdict until at least September.
The opportunity for investment and growth in the form of new sponsorship – along with a fairer slice of the commercial revenue for the smaller outfits and/or better cost-capping measures – is unlikely to ever come into play unless the sport rids itself of its current blight in Munich.
Image via XPB Images
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