Key Morgan Grenfell man quits over F1 issue

SCOTT LANPHERE, the American executive who took Morgan Grenfell Private Equity into the F1 business, is quitting the venture capitalist organization after a major row with the rest of the board.

His departure has put MGPE under the satirical spotlight in the UK financial press with today's City Comment editorial in the Daily Telegraph lampooning the company's seemingly chaotic efforts to become involved with Bernie Ecclestone's F1 business under the heading "Here comes MG to make a right pig's ear out of Formula 1."

The Telegraph's observer noted; "He failed to get a deal (with Ecclestone) and suddenly the team was out of Formula 1 and into the Muppets. It swapped its F1 stake for shares in EM.TV, the German media group which owns Miss Piggy and Co. (an allusion to the fact they own the rights to the Muppet Show) making a paper profit of about 30 million pounds. A year later the wheels have come off EM.TV and that paper profit is a loss of about 150 million pounds."

In fact, Lanphere may have been the most shrewd operator in this unhappy story for MGPE. The word from its parent company Deutsche Bank is that he was the one who opposed the EM.TV deal, preferring instead to keep shares in Bernie's cash-rich company. It seemed that he was over-ruled by the rest of the MGPE board, although he is now leaving for what is being touted publicly as "a personality clash."

One City sources said to be familiar with the situation said that Michael Dobson, the former head of asset management at Deutsche, is also understood to have opposed retaining the minority stake.

"He wasn't sure about Bernie and didn't like the idea of minority stakes," said the source.

What is clear, however, is that the trawler skipper's son from Suffolk has shown himself to be considerably more adept at financial wheeler-dealing than many of the so-called City professionals. If Ecclestone was a banker rather than an entrepreneur, chances are he would have come out on top as well.

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