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MARCH 19, 2004

Politics at Silverstone

The talk about a change of management at Silverstone has gone rather quiet in the last few days. The deal that was being discussed that would have put former Ford rally boss Martin Whitaker in charge appears to have fallen apart and rumours that John Macdonald would get the role have also been discounted, although the former RAM F1 team boss is still working as a "problem solver" for Silverstone. For the moment therefore Andrew Waller remains in charge although there continue to be stories that the lease of Silverstone and the British Grand Prix contract may soon be handed over to Bernie Ecclestone, at which point a new management will be put in place.

The rumours of an Ecclestone takeover are not new and began more than a year ago. Since then much has changed. The leaseholder, the US advertising giant Interpublic, decided that it needed to get out of its motor racing commitments and announced in March 2003 that it had told the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) that it was going to find a way to stop losing money on the deal. After that the company share price began to improve, climbing from $9.30 to more than $16. The company seems to have concluded that some of this recovery was due to the announcement that it was planning to off-load its racing activities. Selling off the other racing circuits in the group was completed a couple of months ago and it appears that Interpublic has concluded that it is probably worth paying someone to take the British GP commitments off its hands. The obvious person to offer the deal to is Bernie Ecclestone, who has always wanted to control the British Grand Prix. However it is not as simple as that because the BRDC is understood to have the right to veto any change of control. This means that a new deal must be negotiated of else Interpublic must honour the original agreement.

Once the deal is completed it is expected that the promotion of the event will be handed over to Formula One Management and that one of Ecclestone's lieutenants will then be put in charge.

For the moment however the whole thing seems to be under negotiation.