DECEMBER 19, 2000
Is Bernie trying to reverse purchase EM.TV?
ACCORDING to reports in the German newspapers, Bernie Ecclestone is looking at buying a shareholding in the troubled German media company EM.TV, which owns half of his Formula One group of companies. At the moment the situation is rather confused but officially EM.TV is still owned by the Haffa Family, which controls 51% of the shares. It was announced that the Kirch company would be buying a 16.74 per cent stake in EM.TV with an additional eight percent being acquired by an increase in the company's capital. As part of the deal Kirch bought 49% of the Formula 1 holding company for $550m. EM.TV has an option to buy another 25% of Formula 1 and Thomas Haffa said that he intends to take that up in May next year. This would mean that the Ecclestone Family would own only 26% of the firm although Bernie Ecclestone is believed to have an arrangement that he will remain as chief executive as long as he wishes to do so.
Whether or not this deal has been completed has yet to be confirmed and Ecclestone may now be trying to regain control of the business at a cheap rate by buying a big slice of EM.TV. Sources at Kirch say that EM.TV has undertaken not to negotiate with other companies but it is unclear whether Ecclestone is included in this arrangement as he is already involved in the talks. Ecclestone has no real need of most of the EM.TV empire but could sell on the firm's media assets and make a big profit on the deal, which would then leave him with the chance to sell the F1 shares for a second time. Kirch might well agree to such a deal if he gained a large chunk of the EM.TV media business. Ecclestone could then return to talks with the car manufacturers who want to get more control of the sport.