The Ecclestones and Ferrari

They may not be true but there were reports on the Italian television station RAI on Sunday that the Ecclestone Family is to buy into the Ferrari car company. We heard similar rumors earlier in the week in Budapest but chose not to publish them as we were unable to get any independent confirmation.

Our sources suggest that nothing has yet been done but that there may be talks taking place. The Ecclestone Family has made a huge amount of money out of Grand Prix racing in recent years and much of this is now held by trust companies which are controlled by Bernie Ecclestone's wife Slavica.

Until recently Ferrari shares could not be purchased but Fiat decided a couple of months ago that in order to help fund its activities it was going to sell a percentage of Ferrari-Maserati SpA to the Italian investment bank Mediobanca, which paid $768m for 34% of the company. Fiat retained a majority shareholding of 56% with the remaining 10% being owned by the Ferrari Family.

Mediobanca has since sold 11% to the German bank Commerzbank for $225m and the two groups have announced plans to float their combined shareholdings at some point next year.

The suggestion we have heard is that the Ecclestones would like to acquire all these shares in a private sale. This makes sense for the banks which would reduce the risks of a flotation if market conditions are not favorable. Acquiring a share of Ferrari could be a very smart move for the family trusts as Ferrari is about to embark on a major global merchandising push which could greatly increase the value of the business. An involvement in Ferrari would also help to bolster the value of SLEC, the parent company of the Formula One group.

Ferrari is widely considered to be an essential element in F1 and thus the move makes a lot of sense.

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