• Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: It was announced late last week that CVC Capital Partners, a London-based venture capital firm, has acquired 75 percent of SLEC Holdings Ltd., which controls the commercial rights of the Formula 1 World Championship. In a deal speculated to be in the range of $1 billion, CVC acquired the 50 percent of the company owned by German financial instutution Bayerische Landesbank and approximately 25 percent owned by the Bambino Trust, controlled by the family of F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone. CVC is reportedly negotiating to obtain the remaining 25 percent of the business held jointly by JP Morgan and Lehmann Brothers, however these are non-voting shares. The announcement stated that a new company, called Alpha Prema, will be formed to control the F1 commercial rights, and that the shareholders would be CVC, the Bambino Trust and Ecclestone (via a reinvestment) and the vaguely-named “Formula One management team.” The deal must be approved by both the FIA and the EU. The Alpha Prema board will include the 75-year-old Ecclestone as chief executive, along with Bayerische Landesbank’s Gerhard Gribkowsky, CVC’s Donald Mackenzie and a representative of the Bambino Trust.
Thumbnail Background: In 1999, Ecclestone sold 12.5 percent of SLEC (named for his wife, SLavica ECclestone) to Morgan Grenfell Private Equity for $325m, and 37.5 percent to Hellman & Friedman for $975m. Morgan Grenfell and Hellman & Friedman combined their shares to form a company called Speed Investments. Ltd., which was sold to German television network EM.TV for $1.6bn. EM.TV’s stock price crashed from $88 to $3 in the summer of 2000, and Speed Investments was sold to German media firm Kirch at the bargain-basement price of $550m. Kirch then also purchased another 25 percent of SLEC for $1 billion, giving Speed Investments 75 percent of SLEC. However, in 2003 Kirch went bankrupt and Speed Investments was acquired by the trio of banking institutions Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehmann Brothers.
What Now? CVC has experience in motorsport, as it also owns Dorna Sport, which controls the commercial rights of the wildly popular MotoGP motorcycle world championship. It also owns
• Farewell, Old Friend: The team known as Minardi, which began life in 1979 as a Formula 2 team and entered Formula 1 in 1985, ceased to exist for all intents and purposes this week. The team held its last test at