Monday May 21st, 2001
German media giant Kirch said on Monday it would exercise an option to increase its stake in Formula One holding company SLEC to a majority later this year.
A company spokesman said Kirch, which controls some 38 percent of SLEC through a partnership with children's television rights dealer EM.TV & Merchandising, also said Formula One mogul Bernie Ecclestone no longer objected to such a step.
Kirch obtained the option to buy 25 percent of SLEC from EM.TV as part of bailing out the financially-troubled owner of the Muppets earlier this year, and provided financing of some $1 billion to allow EM.TV to buy the 25 percent stake in SLEC after it bought half of the circuit last year as part of a spending spree.
Kirch's growing control over Formula One has provoked the ire of major carmakers as they fear Kirch will limit broadcasting of the races to pay television.
Kirch has repeatedly said it has no such intentions but on Friday the carmakers said they would set up a rival motor racing series by 2008 to keep the sport free to watch on global television.