Friday March 23rd, 2001
Motor racing's governing body has approved a conditional deal under which Bernie Ecclestone's SLEC Trust will extend control of Formula One's broadcasting and other commercial rights, the Financial Times reports today.
The agreement, approved by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) on Thursday, would extend SLEC's control for more than a century. Furthermore, the FIA had given Ecclestone 30 days from Thursday to reach a final agreement.
The newspaper said it appeared likely that a deal would be reached between the carmakers competing in Formula One, German media groups Kirch Group and EM.TV, and Ecclestone about the issue of ownership of SLEC itself.
Ecclestone's family trust holding company SLEC, which is jointly owned by EM.TV, holds the Formula One broadcasting and commercial rights until 2010 but agreed with the FIA last year to extend them for around 100 years.
The Financial Times said it understood that the path to the agreement had been opened by the carmakers accepting assurances from Kirch that there would be no attempt to turn Formula One broadcasting into exclusively pay-per-view digital television transmissions controlled by Kirch.
"The talks also include Kirch," a source told Reuters, adding that negotiations were still at an early stage.
The talks involve Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and focus on the ownership structure of SLEC, a company which holds the commercial rights to Formula One racing.
Kirch has said it is open to talks with the manufacturers - Ford-owned Jaguar, Fiat (Ferrari), BMW, Renault and DaimlerChrysler - and is willing to offer them a stake in SLEC.
Juergen Hubbert, board member at DaimlerChrysler, had earlier ruled out negotiations with Kirch, saying Formula One racing would die in the hands of the media empire.
It was not immediately clear if DaimlerChrysler was now taking part in the talks.
The industry source said that only the carmakers were far from unanimous on how to act.
"The carmakers are not forming one united front and this is making things a little easier for the companies (EM.TV and Kirch)," the source said.
The manufacturers recently threatened to set up their own motor racing circuit if Kirch switched broadcasts to pay TV, which Kirch has said it will not do.