Sorrell: ‘Any other CEO…would be gone’

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CVCAmidst the tumult, harsh words, odd behavior, infighting, posturing, politicking, power grabs and bluffs the world waits patiently for the next 24 hours. The ticking clock was set in motion when CVC CEO and F1 commercial rights boss Bernie Ecclestone said he would sort out F1’s troubles in 48 hours.

This statement came on the heels of a scathing story in the Times about CVC Partners considering the release of Ecclestone from his position as company CEO and F1 boss. This was due to Ecclestone’s strange admiration of Hitler in a bizarre interview with the Times.

Two of CVC Partners leading board members, Sir Martin Sorrell and Peter Brabeck, are Jewish and found nothing amusing about Ecclestone’s comments. So nonplussed were they that they advocated the release of Ecclestone as the company CEO over F1. This was also fueled by the fact that the Formula one Teams Association (FOTA) had engaged CVC directly to sort out their differences instead of traditionally working with Ecclestone on legal issues and contract details.

The rumors flew but as we pointed out CVC’s managing partner Donald McKenzie came to Ecclestone’s aid yesterday by denying there was any talk of parting company with the 78-year old ringmaster of F1. Yet 48 hours later CVC’s Sorrell unleashed a scathing attack on Ecclestone’s comments telling the Mail Online:

‘I am appalled by what he said about Hitler,’ said Sorrell of Ecclestone, who is employed as CVC’s chief executive. ‘His comments were disgusting. He issued a full apology after taking advice. Any other CEO in any other business would be gone.’

The Mail Online also said that Sorrell had asked Ecclestone not to attend last weekends German Grand Prix but Ecclestone ignored the request and went any way.

Ecclestone is facing mounting pressure. He has been the man applying the pressure over the last few decades but this role has caught him in odd territory. The aging and diminutive Brit finds himself in a tenuous situation with the FIA, teams, fans, track owners and CVC. Like his friend, FIA president Max Mosley, Ecclestone has created a firestorm of controversy over Nazi innuendos.

Last year Mosley was accused of participating in Nazi-style orgies with prostitutes. The event nearly cost him his role with the FIA had it not been for fancy footwork and political wrangling for “confidence” votes. Now both men find themselves at cliff-edge moments in their careers and many are eager to see their backs as they waltz toward the twilight of their tenures.

Ecclestone has one card left to play and that is to resolve the FIA/FOTA/CVC war quickly. The sooner the Billionaire can resolve this issue, the sooner he can hold the status quo and remain as CEO over F1.This was all but completed in June until long-time friend Mosley reversed his position and threatened not to step down from his FIA role in October which unsettled negotiations.

This leaves very little time to secure an agreement with the teams, FIA and CVC. CVC Partners are most likely on a powder keg over the issue as they have over $2 billion invested in this circus that is called F1. FOTA’s departure from the series would render their investment worthless and no company likes absorbing a loss of that size. Especially if they feel it is avoidable and only at risk by the actions of two men.

The binding tripartite contract that governs the sport of F1 is the Concorde Agreement and this is the very vehicle Ecclestone says he will have completed within the next 24 hours. Ecclestone suggested this would be signed, Mosley would stand down in October and there would be no breakaways series for FOTA. Cross your fingers, I am not sure we have heard the last of Mosley or Ecclestone yet.

The fact remains—with both Mosley and Ecclestone; any other CEO would be gone for such actions and words. The time for being Teflon coated is over and the insulated world of immeasurable wealth and power has run its course. Unfortunately for Ecclestone, his ex-wife just made off with his retirement fund.


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