JULY 25, 2001
Kirch to take over Haffa?
LATER today (Wednesday) there is due to be a press conference in Munich and there is intense speculation in Germany that the announcement will be that Thomas Haffa is selling his 43% share in EM.TV & Merchandising AG to Leo Kirch. The purchase has been denied by Kirch. According to The Financial Times Haffa is going to sell for around $85m but the newspaper did not confirm that Kirch would be the buyer. The FT reported that Haffa's replacement as head of EM.TV will be Rainer Huther, who joined EM.TV from Kirch in March
Kirch currently owns 16.7% of EM.TV and has 25% of the voting rights, which means that the company can do nothing without his agreement. Kirch also has an option to buy Haffa's 43% but there are others who might easily be interested in buying Haffa out.
Such a move would make enormous sense for Bernie Ecclestone, the boss of Formula 1. This would give him back control of SLEC, the trust which controls the Formula 1 group of companies. At the moment EM.TV owns 38.25% of SLEC through its involvement in a company called Speed Investment. The Ecclestone Family controls another 25% and so such a deal would give him effective control of 63.25% of the business. The purchase would boost EM.TV shares as they have been dragged down in recent months by Haffa's involvement and would provide Ecclestone with such assets as The Muppet Show, which he could sell.
The other potential buyer is the European association of car manufacturers (ACEA) which wants to get a share in the F1 business. This would be a start and would probably be cheaper than buying a bigger share later from Ecclestone.
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