Ecclestone mistrusts city
Bernie Ecclestone has been speaking to The Sunday Telegraph about his distrust of the city "The strange thing is that they seem to want to see how a business works, to find out what a company is really like and then the first thing they want to do is change it".
In the same article it was explained that Robin Saunders, BCE's banker at Westdeutsche Landesbank that underwrote the bond issue is May, has been speaking to many investment bankers about selling F1 who had approached her. For this, and her rescue of the bond issue, Bernie respects her: "She has done what she said she would do, and that is unique. I am a straight-talking kind of person and so is she. It is refreshing to find someone like that in the City... They all seem to think that they are beyond being touched and do not need to keep their word."
The companies thought to have approached BCE include KKR (an American venture capital company), BSkyB and Nomura. In the end, Bernie decided to work with Saunders.
Saunders, speaking on the deal she struck with Deutsche Bake, said "I suppose people have been calling me the woman who sold Formula One. But you do not really need to say that. Bernie made the cmpany. It has been great working with him. He really is a doer. He does not mince his words and says exactly what he means. This was not the biggest deal we have done, but the reason for that is that we knew the company and Bernie well".
Some bankers are suspicious of why WestLB has been so keen to sell F1 as quickly as possible. One suggests that the board was worried at the degree of exposure it had to the bond, as the EC are still investigating the issue of F1 television rights. The second is that sudden rush to get involved in F1 suddenly makes the bonds that WestLB holds look more valuable, and ready for sale.
Her new task is to sell the 37.5% of F1 that is up for sale (12.5% has already been sold to Deutsche Bank). According to the story, some 20 bidders have approached her, including television companies, sports management groups and venture capitalists. Some of those interested have been angry at the leak - 21 Invest (run by Alessandro Benetton) was to take 10% (leaving 27.5% up for grabs), but is now reconsidering. Apax Partners, meanwhile, are believed to have been concerned at the price and pulled out.
One VC is quoted in the article saying "I think Morgan Grenfell are crazy paying this kind of price given the doubts about future earnings and the Commission investigation. It does not make sense".
BCE has put a limit of 6 months on the time available for the sale, then he will shut up the sale. It is now thought very unlikely the Morgan Grenfell will expand their stake beyond the current 12.5%. If the deal is pulled off, it will be a masterstroke for Ecclestone - not only will he still control the company, with the 50% he retains, but he has also avoided full disclosure that would be required in a float. The complicated ownership of F1 and the agreements with teams over television money means that a full float would be problematic.
Peugeot approaches Jordan
It has been reported that Peugeot has approached Jordan about supplying it with engines in 2001. Jordan, however, does have a deal with Mugen- Honda through 2001. Peugeot is looking at it's options beyond 2000, when it's deal with Prost expires. Jordan is unlikely to switch, as development in the Mugen-Honda is solid and progressing well, whilst Peugeot and it's commitment is now an unknown quantity.
At Japan, Mugen Honda said that work on the engine as supplied to Jordan is progressing well, and they are to make a big effort for next season. There are conflicting reports about the state of the Honda engine as supplied to BAR. One report says it is more powerful and lighter than the current Mugen-Honda, whilst others say it is not producing anywhere near the same level of performance or reliability.
Minardi to have Supertecs?
Minardi have said their deal with Supertec will be finalised in the next 10 days. The deal appeared to be in jepordy, but the prize money from 10th in the championship will have eased the financial problems at the Faenza team.
Luca to concentrate on test role
According to sources, Luca Badoer is expected to not drive for Minardi next season, preferring to concentrate on his test role with Ferrari. Minardi are to test Giorgio Vinella, Peter Sundberg and the winner of the Iberian Open Fortuna series in December.
-- Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk