Sports

Team bosses cool on Formula One IPO plans

March 23, 2012

SEPANG, Malaysia, March 23 — Team bosses were cool on the idea of becoming actively involved in any flotation of Formula One on the Singapore stock exchange, instead preferring to focus on their own interests.

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone on Wednesday said he had made the proposal but any decision to list was up to CVC Capital Partners, the private equity company that owned a majority of the business since 2006.

Formula One team bosses speak to the media at Sepang: Top row from left Lotus F1 chairman Gerard Lopez, Caterham CEO Riad Asmat and Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn. Front row from left McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. — Reuters picFormula One team bosses speak to the media at Sepang: Top row from left Lotus F1 chairman Gerard Lopez, Caterham CEO Riad Asmat and Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn. Front row from left McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. — Reuters picSpeaking to reporters today ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend, several of the leading teams’ decision makers were frosty towards the idea.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh was dismissive of the idea, the Briton feeling the team had enough business interests to focus on.

“I don’t think it would benefit us as a team,” he said. “Although I have no details of the proposal. Generally, flotations and change of ownerships aren’t done for the benefit of the sport.

“What we as race teams need to concentrate on is putting a show on here and that clearly the owners decide on what they do with the asset.”

Asked if he was keen to invest, he was even more forthright.

“I can’t afford it,” he replied.

“It’s not our business; our business is as a race team primarily with a few other businesses as well. Being owners of Formula One isn’t something that’s in our plans.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also described it as other people’s business.

“At the end of the day it’s not down to us, it’s down to the shareholders... it’s down to CVC and Bernie (Ecclestone) as it’s their business and not the teams,” he said.

“It could possibly benefit us all but we are not involved in the detail. We heard there was potential discussion and it’s an interesting concept.”

Lotus chairman Gerard Lopez believed it was too early to say whether the flotation would benefit the sport without knowing the full details of the proposal.

“Flotations can mean many things. If you take to the market a minority share, does it change anything in ownership, gives more liquidity to the owners, maybe more money to the sport?” he asked.

“As long as there are no details on what exactly would be ‘IPO’ed or not, I don’t think there’s much to be discussed as it could mean many, many things to many people. So it really depends on what you are willing to take to the market.”

Horner and Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali agreed that neither team had any plans to invest in the flotation should it go public.

“From Red Bull’s perspective... we are an engine, we’re a team and we’re very happy with that and do not see a necessity or a requirement to have a shareholding,” Horner said.

Lopez added that investment would have been a more interesting option had it been offered to all of those involved in the sport.

“As far as Formula One goes, it might have made more sense if all the teams could afford it and they all became shareholders in some form or fashion but that’s not going to happen,” the Luxembourgian entrepreneur added.

“So as far as investing in Formula One, I think it then becomes purely financial position and then falls out of the sport and if somebody wants to invest or not then it’s like any other stock.” — Reuters

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