Bernie Ecclestone, who heads the company that owns the commercial rights to Formula One, may soon be replaced.
Telegraph Sport said on Wednesday that a dossier will be presented at a meeting of Delta Topco, Formula One Group’s parent company, to plan for Ecclestone’s successor, along with addressing the sport’s stalling profitability and lack of sponsorship money and key personnel. The report comes amid U-turns on regulations, squabbling among teams and scathing criticism of the sport from Ecclestone himself.
The 85-year-old British businessman – who has been involved in F1 since his racing years in the 1950s – said recently that the sport has been the worst it has ever been in years, supposedly because Mercedes-Benz is part of a “cartel” that has a hand in the decision-making process, leading to rules that serve the company’s own interests rather than those of the sport. Ecclestone is believed to be at odds with Mercedes’s head of motorsport Toto Wolff, who is said to have designs on taking over the whole empire.
Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of the board of Mercedes parent company Daimler AG, has criticized Ecclestone for his accusations.
“I don’t understand how someone who is not only the CEO [chief executive officer], but the partial owner of that product talks that way about this,” Zestsche said in an interview at a Mercedes-Benz launch at the Geneva Motor Show. “If he feels the way he does about it, it should be discussed internally to see how to change it, but not as a sales pitch.”
Despite the criticism against Ecclestone, Telegraph Sport said his position appears secure as long as CVC Capital Partners own a controlling stake in F1.CVC boss Donald Mackenzie is a huge admirer of Ecclestone and has been steadfast in his support of F1’s chief executive. Just over a year ago, Mackenzie wanted to bring in Paul Walsh, the former boss of Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits manufacturer, to run the sport alongside Ecclestone, but was talked round by the octogenarian. Mackenzie also stuck by Ecclestone throughout his bribery trial in Germany.
However, the lack of a clear successor has left the sport in a state of limbo, especially since CVC shelved plans for an initial public offering on the Singapore Stock Exchange that cannot be revived as long as Ecclestone is still head, according to legal advice given to the F1 board by city firm Freshfields in 2014.