Sunday April 8th, 2001
Formula One motor racing supremo Bernie Ecclestone has offered to sell 50 per cent of his family's stake in the sport to the motor manufacturers that have threatened to form a rival circuit, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
Ecclestone told Britain's Sunday Times he would share his 25 per cent stake in Formula One with the car companies if that was what it took to "sort it out."
The manufacturers, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Ford and Renault, have threatened to form a rival competition because they are unhappy that the sport is being controlled by two German media companies.
Kirch, a broadcaster, and EM.TV, a production company, own the remaining 75 percent of SLEC, the company which controls the commercial rights to Formula One racing.
The manufacturers are concerned that the Germans would opt for pay-per-view coverage in future rather than open broadcasts, a move that would decrease exposure to mass audiences.
Ecclestone was quoted by the newspaper as saying: "I have no idea what they (the manufacturers) want at this stage. Their position changes all the time.
"They are in business to sell cars. It seems strange to me that they want to own the races as well."
He said the German companies would also sell shares to the manufacturers, giving them a 25 per cent stake in the sport.
A Fiat spokesman was also quoted as saying: "It appears that Ecclestone and Kirch/EM.TV are moving toward a deal that we will find acceptable."
Despite the offer, Ecclestone, 70, said planned to remain as Formula One managing director indefinitely. "The teams need not worry about my retirement, only my death. And I am not planning to die soon."