Paddock magazine December 2014 / January 2015 Issue 70 - Page 49

FEATURES which may seem a lot. Considering that the company is split up into more than four billion shares, it comes down to just over one percent. Ecclestone’s long-term protector and greatest admirer has been Donald Mackenzie, the chairman of Formula 1’s majority owners CVC. An affable man in private, Mackenzie is publicly reticent to the point of invisibility. This private equity company makes a fortune out of Formula 1 but does not reinvest any of its profits. Some directors are keen to sell up. But co-founder and co-chairman Donald Mackenzie seems reluctant to move on. No successor in sight So if Ecclestone has finally become “unbearable”, “too powerful”, or “uncontrollable” for the shareholders, who should breach the gap? His right-hand man Pasquale Lattuneddu is both a loyal companion and not a go-to-guy. Former racing greats like Niki Lauda, Gerhard Berger or Alain Prost have all expressed being honoured, but instantly brushed off any such ambitions. Flavio Briatore, long treated as an insider tip, has disqualified himself with the Singapore GP scandal of 2008. Paul Walsh, former CEO of drinks giant Diageo, is thought to be on the verge of taking over as chairman of the Formula 1 Group. Known to be a tough operator, the 59-year-old Brit is expected to replace 070 / December 2014 Peter Brabeck. Walsh’s appointment would represent another clipping of Ecclestone’s wings after nearly 40 years of running F1. Insiders expect Walsh to push the sport’s ringmaster and keep a closer eye on his dealings. CVC Capital has plans of an F1 flotation on the Singapore stock exchange, but according to legal advisers Freshfields Ecclestone could not remain as chief executive in case of an IPO. On the other hand, in the event of a sale – several media groups have recently claimed interest – Bernie is likely to be replaced. At the season closing Abu Dhabi GP, Mackenzie was sounding opinions in the paddock and he was also present at a meeting with the sport’s rebellious smaller teams. Showing pre-emptive obedience, Ecclestone met with Walsh in Abu Dhabi stating he “wouldn’t have a problem with him taking executive responsibilities. If it was something positive, I would be delighted.” Ecclestone’s observation that Formula 1 would prefer to cater for rich over-70s than pursue a younger generation has raised several eyebrows and hardly helped his credibility as the sport’s promoter. The sport has to decide who it is trying to appeal to, because Formula 1 relies on the media and sponsors to promote it and it has not yet come to terms with social media. “The casual observer may believe Formula 1 is owned by the FIA, after all, it is known as the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. 49