Ecclestone Fears F-1 Doom
April 6, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
"It has taken me 30 years to build up Formula One into what it is today," Ecclestone told the Financial Times in London. "It could take just six months to destroy it."
The five manufactures - Ford/Jaguar, DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Fiat/Ferrari and Renault - released a statement two days ago through their umbrella organization the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA) that they would form their own Formula One series because they are unhappy that the Kirch and EM.TV media groups now own 75 percent of SLEC. SLEC is the company created by Ecclestone that owns the TV and commercial rights to Formula One until the year 2110.
Ecclestone said that the ACEA had plenty of chances to buy shares of SLEC prior to now.
"They bargained on Kirch not being able to come up with the money and now their noses are out of joint," Ecclestone said. "The bottom line is that the manufacturers had the opportunity to come in, through EM.TV, long before Kirch came on the scene. It was a good proposal that they didn't take up."
The ACEA is upset because it feels that Kirch will turn Formula One into a pay-for-view only TV sport. Kirch has denied that and also offered to sell the ACEA a 25 percent slice of SLEC.
On Thursday Ecclestone released a statement to support Kirch's claims that it would insure that Formula One would remain on free TV. Ecclestone also revealed that he would run SLEC for another five years.
"I have been assured that my policy of securing worldwide, extensive, live, free over-the-air television coverage remains unchanged," Ecclestone said, "and that races will only be allocated into countries which will be in the best interest of the teams, manufacturers and sponsors. From my point of view, this was a necessary precondition for taking on the position for a further five years."
The teams and engine manufacturers, meanwhile, are keeping mum on the subject.
"We feel that it would be inappropriate to make any comment at this time," a McLaren spokesperson told RacingOne.
Formula One insiders believe the engine manufacturers want more than the 51 percent share of the commercial rights income they currently receive. They also want a bigger say in how the sport is run. Whatever happens, nothing will change until 2008. Formula One is governed by the Concorde Agreement, a mostly secret document that divides up the prize and TV money, and sets the basis for how the rules are made etc.
The current Concorde Agreement, which was only signed by the teams after intense negotiations, is in effect through 2007.