July 4, 2015 / 5:28 PM / 2 years ago

Exclusive: CVC say they are under no pressure to sell F1

SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Formula One’s commercial rights holders CVC Capital Partners are under no pressure to sell their controlling stake in the sport and want to keep it, co-chairman Donald Mackenzie told Reuters on Saturday.

Mercedes Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Germany (C) leads the pack after overtaking his team mate Lewis Hamilton of Britain (R) at the start of the Austrian F1 Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria, June 21, 2015. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

He would not comment on reports that RSE Ventures, the investment vehicle of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, was teaming up with Qatar to buy CVC’s stake in a potential $7 billion-$8 billion deal..

Asked at the British Grand Prix whether the private equity fund had a deadline by which they had to sell their 35.5 percent stake, the media-shy businessman replied: ”No, we don‘t. There is no end date.

“We have 12 year funds, which we have to return the original money. We have already done that. So the pressure’s off,” added Mackenzie.

“We like owning it (Formula One), we don’t want to sell it. There are always some people who’d like to buy it, it’s a very good business.”

CVC has twice tried to float Formula One, most recently in 2013, but the plans stalled and the fund instead sold stakes to U.S. investment groups BlackRock and Waddell & Reed, along with Norway’s Norges Bank.

It sold down its holding from 63 percent in 2012 in deals that at the time gave the business an enterprise value, which includes debt and equity, of $9.1 billion.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters last month that a deal with Ross and the Qataris could be done within six weeks.

The source said Bernie Ecclestone, who has ruled over the sport for four decades, would stay on to lead the racing side of the business while Dieter Hahn, chairman of the supervisory board of German sports marketing media group Constantin Medien, was also involved.

NO HARD FEELINGS

Ecclestone told Reuters separately on Saturday that “lots of people have made approaches” and indicated he too might be interested in a takeover or buyout.

”Donald Mackenzie doesn’t want to sell, simple as that,“ he said, speaking inside his paddock motorhome. ”He loves Formula One, loves the business.

”He may have to sell his shares.

“Whether he will invest himself, maybe with me separately, we will have to wait and see,” added the 84-year-old Briton who has been involved in several transfers of ownership of the commercial rights over the years.

Asked whether he might join a consortium including Red Bull or Mercedes, Ecclestone said: “Not those people.”

He said Ross was a “proper guy, a sporting guy, and from a business point of view” but was vague about any involvement with the American.

Constantin Medien last year brought a $100 million damages claim against Ecclestone in the London High Court over his involvement in the deal that brought CVC into the sport as top shareholder.

That claim was dismissed but the judge made damaging observations about Ecclestone in finding him neither a reliable nor truthful witness.

Ecclestone said there were no hard feelings between him and Hahn, despite the litigation.

“I could work with anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference to me. He lost the case so why should I be upset with him? If he were here now, we’d probably be having dinner tonight.”

Editing by Mark Meadows

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