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Bernie rules out being reined-in

2014-12-12 08:04

STILL AT THE HELM: Bernie Ecclestone dismissed talk that a potential new F1 chairman could "rein him in". Image: AP

ALAN BALDWIN

LONDON, England - Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed talk of a new chairman trying to "rein him in" and says he plans to continue running the company as if he owned it.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday (Dec 12 2014), the 84-year-old billionaire made it clear it was business as usual.

Ecclestone said he was back on the board of F1 after standing down during a his bribery trial in Germany (that was eventually settled) and only the board could remove him as chief executive.

GRIP ON F1 WEAKENED

Ecclestone said: "I'm happy here as long as the board is happy with me. When I think I can't deliver any longer, I'll retire."

Private equity group CVC, F1's controlling shareholder, is seeking a new chairman to replace the unwell Peter Brabeck-Letmathe and that's led to suggestions that Ecclestone's grip could be weakened. Brabeck, the Austrian chairman of food group Nestle, was appointed in 2012 when F1 was preparing a flotation that was scrapped.

Paul Walsh, former head of alcoholic drinks group Diageo, has been touted as a likely replacement.

Management Today magazine this week quoted a source close to Walsh as saying he "would want to rein-in (Ecclestone) to some extent from a good governance point of view".

He added that Walsh would get "short-tempered" if Ecclestone did not change his ways.

Asked about the "rein-in" remark, Ecclestone replied: "He would be unique if he could do that. First he's got to be appointed, hasn't he?"

FEMALE CHIEF EXECUTIVE?

Ecclestone, who has regularly confounded those eager to write his F1-career obituary, said talk of the need to groom a successor was "a little bit of a nonsense" and suggested chief legal officer Sacha Woodward-Hill could do the job.

He said: "If I died now there's enough people in the company who could continue running it the way we've set things up.

"I think perhaps if I was controlling the board... I would probably say it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a woman being the chief executive."

This from a man who once caused a stir in America by comparing women to domestic appliances.

He also said there were no plans for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) but acknowledged he could use some help with F1 recording falling TV audiences and critics accuse it of failing to attract younger fans. Some teams have financial problems and one, Marussia, folded towards the end of the 2014 season.

Ecclestone added: "We've been looking for five years for somebody, one or two people, who maybe could help when it comes to chasing around for sponsors and things.

"We need to have somebody who's actually been successful doing that."

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