Ecclestone ready to buy back F1 TV rights

F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone is prepared to pay £1bn to regain sole ownership of SLEC Holdings, the F1 commercial rights holder, according to yesterday's Sunday Times newspaper. Ecclestone said he would then float the company - provided the F1 teams commit to the championship in its current form until 2015. A banking consortium (BayernLB, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers) now owns 75 percent of the stock [Feb 19], and Ecclestone's family trust the remaining 25 percent

Ecclestone ready to buy back F1 TV rights

Brian Powers, director of Bambino Trust (Ecclestone's family trust), said: "We've made it clear that if, as part of a long-term solution, extra money was needed either in SLEC or to buy out the banks, the trust was willing to do that. But we need a long-term Concorde Agreement in place."

Ecclestone's offer is likely to bring to a head his current impasse with , the company formed by the five European-based F1 manufacturers to establish their own, alternative series on the expiry of the current Concorde Agreement at the end of the 2007 F1 season.

BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ferrari, Ford and Renault have themselves considered shortcutting their plans to gain greater control over their investments by making their own deal with the three banks. However, Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo told the UK newspaper that such a solution had now been rejected by the GPWC board. He said: "The manufacturers are not prepared to fund the banks. They prefer to have [the money] in their own pockets. Without us in 2008, the banks will own 75 percent of nothing."

The banking consortium has acquired part of the SLEC holding as security against loans to the bankrupt Kirch Gruppe and, as reported last week, by arranging to buy the remainder from EM.TV & Merchandising (subject to the approval of the EU Competition Commission).

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