Ecclestone and Haffa to meet in Austria

THIS weekend Bernie Ecclestone and Thomas Haffa, his partner in the Formula One group of companies, are due to meet in Austria, probably during the annual Hannenkamm ski racing festival at Kitzbuhel. Haffa is struggling to keep his EM.TV company afloat as his talks with Kirch about a possible rescue package seem to be getting nowhere. Ecclestone is in a position of power as EM.TV last year agreed to buy 25% more of Ecclestone's shares in the F1 companies for around $1bn. The collapse of the EM.TV share price in recent months means that EM.TV is worth less than the money it needs to pay Ecclestone if he decides to exercise the option to sell the extra shares in May. If that happened EM.TV would probably have to declare bankruptcy and there would no doubt be a rush to buy up the healthy parts of the over-stretched German media company.

There has been speculation in recent months that Ecclestone has plans to buy the entire EM.TV empire and will then break it up with some of its media and merchandising assets being sold on to pay for the rest of the purchase, Ecclestone will probably have another buyer lined up for the shares if his previous dealings are anything to go by.

The logical move for him would be some kind of a deal involving the Disney company in the United States as the firm is keen to get its hands on some of EM.TV's cartoon library while Ecclestone would like to get a deal with a major US television network in order to speed up the growth of F1 in the United States of America. Disney controls the ABC network and the ESPN sports channels. ABC currently does not have a major involvement in motor racing following NASCAR's decision to do a deal with rivals NBC and Fox.

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