Ecclestone: SLEC Not for Sale

An approach has been made to buy Formula One's holding company SLEC although the shares are not for sale, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Tuesday

Ecclestone: SLEC Not for Sale

"It has been reported that approaches have been made in relationship to the sale by the controlling shareholders of SLEC," he said in a signed statement issued by Formula One Management (FOM).

"Although the approach has been made, the answer has been that the company shares are not for sale.

"The shareholders are long term investors and have the interest and stability of Formula One foremost in their mind," said the statement.

It was unclear what approach the statement, which appeared to contradict Ecclestone's past comments about the shareholder banks, was referring to.

Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported at the weekend that financier Robin Saunders was planning a $1.5 billion purchase of Formula One through a private equity firm and had held extensive negotiations with Ecclestone.

It said Saunders planned a leveraged buyout of the sport in a scheme that would eventually see the teams owning the franchise.

There have been reports of several groups stalking Formula One recently.

The Business newspaper reported at the weekend that BSkyB chief executive James Murdoch had told a consortium of U.S. and British private equity firms that he was open to playing a role in any F1 bid.

Another reportedly interested is Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa's Tom Group, who said last month it was premature to say it was in talks on a specific deal.

SLEC is 75 percent owned by the banks Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers, with Ecclestone's family trust controlling the remainder.

The banks inherited their stake following the collapse of Germany's Kirch media empire, which had borrowed around $1.6 billion from them, and now control FOM as well.

The FOM statement comes on the eve of a meeting in Milan between major carmakers and teams and Max Mosley, head of the governing FIA, to discuss the sport's future after the existing commercial agreement expires at the end of 2007.

The carmakers have been threatening their own series from 2008 unless they have a far bigger slice of the revenues, greater transparency and equal treatment for all.

So far only three teams, champions Ferrari and privately-owned Red Bull and Jordan have agreed to extend the existing 'Concorde Agreement' to 2012.

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