Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he doubts fashion industry tycoon Lawrence Stroll will make a $1.5 billion investment in Formula One as has been suggested.
F1 is controlled by the private equity firm CVC Capital which owns 35% of its parent company Delta Topco. The third-biggest shareholder behind CVC and Kansas-based asset management firm Waddell Reed is the estate of collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers. It owns 12.3% of Delta Topco and according to a recent report, Mr Stroll was considering taking over all or part of the stake.
Last year Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that CVC was targeting a $12 billion valuation for F1 which would put a $1.5 billion price on Lehman’s stake. Mr Stroll has the resources to take it over as Forbes puts his fortune at $2.4 billion.
Mr Stroll helped to develop the Tommy Hilfiger clothing brand but much of his wealth comes from the American fashion house Michael Kors which he took public in 2011. He is a motor racing fanatic and his 15 year-old son Lance drives in the junior series Formula 4 as a member of Ferrari’s Driver Academy. Mr Stroll owns Canada’s Circuit Mont-Tremblant and was spotted at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix. It fuelled further rumours about him investing in F1 but Mr Ecclestone has put the brakes on them.
“Nobody knows if Lawrence is buying into F1. Everybody talks. A deal has definitely not been done. I doubt that he will buy F1,” Mr Ecclestone told Forbes.
The origins of Lehman’s F1 stake date back to 2001. This is when German media company Kirch borrowed $1.6 billion from three banks to acquire a 75% stake in F1’s former parent company SLEC. State-owned German bank BayernLB loaned $987.5 million with Lehman and JP Morgan each providing $300 million.
The loans were secured on the stake in SLEC and when Kirch went into administration in 2002 the trio of banks enforced their security. It gave Lehman a 14.2% stake in SLEC in line with the amount it loaned. In 2006 the banks sold their stakes to CVC but Lehman and JP Morgan reinvested in Delta Topco.
Two years later Lehman went into Chapter 11 and CVC attempted to seize its F1 stake as Delta Topco’s Articles of Association give it the power to force any shareholder which becomes insolvent to sell to it for a fair price.
Lehman objected to this on the grounds that US bankruptcy law would overrule its obligation to CVC. It added that its stake would be worth more if it was sold as part of a controlling interest in F1. CVC agreed and allowed it to move its shares and right to repayment of the debt from its bankrupt arm, Lehman Commercial Paper, into LBI Group, a newly-formed holding company containing the valuable assets in Lehman’s portfolio.
LBI’s purpose is to generate cash from its assets which is then used to pay Lehman’s creditors. Its F1 stake is no exception and a sale of it may be imminent.
In 2012 The Guardian revealed that according to documents released in the ongoing unwinding of the bank “if, on June 30, 2014, [LBI Group] has not disposed of all of the Formula One assets, then [Lehman Commercial Paper] may, at any time thereafter demand that [LBI Group] pay to [Lehman Commercial Paper] an amount equal to the fair value of the Formula One assets.”
In summary, the document states that to ensure the F1 stake raises funds for the bank’s creditors, LBI has committed to paying Lehman Commercial Paper an amount equal to the market value of the shares if it has not sold them by 30 June this year.
However, it is understood that this deadline may be an ‘internal’ date that can be easily extended because it’s between two Lehman entities. There is good reason why Lehman may want to hold on to the shares.
As Forbes has revealed, Lehman has got more than $2 billion of cash out and remaining value from its F1 stake which cost the bank $209.3 million. If all of its investments had been that successful then the bank would most probably still be here today.