Haffa out of EM.TV

THOMAS HAFFA, the CEO of German media conglomerate EM.TV, has resigned, leaving the future of EM.TV's shares in Formula 1's commercial rights open to question.

EM.TV bought 50% of Formula 1 holdings company SLEC in early 2000 from the financial houses of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Grenfell. Unfortunately this proved to be an investment too big for EM.TV, which had expanded rapidly, and the company fell into deep financial trouble - as did the two financial houses which had taken shares in part payment for the F1 rights.

Although 47% of EM.TV was sold to Leo Kirch of rival media firm KirchGruppe, things have not improved for EM.TV, and Haffa will be replaced by Werner Klatter, a lawyer and former boss of free-to-air television station, SAT1.

Haffa will reportedly sell Klatter 25.1% of his remaining 43% holding in EM.TV, although no details were given on what will happen to the remainder of his shareholding. The most likely outcome, however is the company that owns SAT1 will pick the shares up - that being KirchGruppe.

This, however, was vigorously denied by a KirchGruppe spokesperson, who said: "We do not, nor any financial investor connected to us, have the intention of buying any shares from Mr. Haffa."

That may be so, but Niklaus Becker, a former high-flyer in EM.TV, is bidding for the remainder of the shares but refuses to disclose who his backers are. Some feel that it could be the five motor manufacturers of the ACEA - BMW, Fiat, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and Renault - who are seeking to become shareholders in Formula 1 are involved. Others, though, still believe that it is Kirch, whose dealings within Formula 1 are currently under scrutiny by the German cartel authorities.

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